Welcome to the online home of Healing Stories: Picture Books for the Big and Small Changes in a Child's Life. Here you'll find information about Healing Stories, along with unique resources to support you in using picture books to help children through the challenges they face, from the everyday to major trauma.

Have you ever wished that you could find just the right book for a child? Maybe a child in your life is anticipating a big change, such as having a new brother or sister, starting school for the first time, or moving to a new house. Maybe something difficult and painful has happened, such as a divorce, a serious illness, or a death. Or maybe you just know a child who is fearful at bedtime, or is a fussy eater, or has a bad day occasionally. It may have occurred to you that sharing a story could help the child in your life manage the situation that she or he is going through.

Why a story? A healing story is a comforting experience. As a child, it’s a comfort to know that other kids have gone through what you’re going through - whether it’s something as ordinary as starting school for the first time, or something as traumatic as a natural disaster. It’s a comfort to know that other children have had the feelings you’re having, and that there are ways to solve the problem or to get through the situation. Most of all, it’s a comfort to share this experience by reading with an adult who cares deeply about you. And when you’ve read this healing story with your parent or another caring adult enough, the book itself - and ultimately, the story (in the absence of a physical book) - becomes a comfort. But, as a parent or other concerned adult, how will you find this healing story to share with your child?

Healing Stories puts at your fingertips an annotated listing of more than 500 picture books that was prepared just for this purpose. Each story or nonfiction picture book has been carefully selected by a psychologist who works extensively with children. Each chapter includes summaries of picture books relevant to a specific concern that children may have, empowering you to select the books that best match the child and the situation you’re concerned about. Healing Stories also includes a helpful introduction that discusses ways to use books with children who are experiencing life changes or stress.

Below you'll find reviews of picture books that aren't included in Healing Stories, and can be valuable sources of healing for children.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Christmas Menorahs: How a Town Fought Hate by Janice Cohn

Illustrated by Bill Farnsworth. 40 p., Whitman, 1995.

This remarkable and inspiring story is based on events that occurred in Billings, Montana, in December, 1993. As the story begins, vandals attack the home of Isaac Schnitzer and his parents. They are Jewish, and are displaying menorahs in the windows in celebration of Hanukkah. The community holds a meeting to address this hate crime. At this meeting, Ms. MacDonald tells the legend of King Christian of Denmark. In this legend, when the Nazis force Jews to wear stars, King Christian wears a star also, inspiring many other Danes to do likewise. Ms. MacDonald suggests that like the Danes, all the citizens of Billings can display menorahs. Churches work together to implement this plan. The newspaper publishes a picture of a menorah for people to put in their windows. Meanwhile, Isaac's teacher holds a productive discussion of difference, prejudice, and bullying. Christian children and adults empathize with the Jews, imagining what they would experience if someone vandalized their homes because they were displaying Christmas decorations. Isaac comes to a new sense of pride in his Jewish identity. And although it takes time, as the people of Billings work together to fight hate, the violence eventually stops. Illustrated with oil paintings that effectively convey a sense of light in the darkness, this moving story imparts powerful lessons about diversity, unity, and courage. Dr. Cohn has also written a play based on this story that can be performed by children (see www.papercandles.com).

Ages: 8-14
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Brave Ben by Mathilde Stein

Illustrated by Mies van Hout. 26 p., Front Street Lemniscaat, 2006.

Fearful children might not be aware of their internal resources. Such is the case for Ben, who thinks of himself as a coward because he doesn't assert himself, feels self-conscious, and fears spooks under his bed. Because he thinks he needs help - magical help - he makes an appointment with a magic tree. The tree tells him that it's in a scary forest, but that the creepy creatures there are harmless. So when Ben meets a dragon, a spider bigger than he is, and a witch on his way to his appointment, he asserts his right to be in the forest, and to his surprise, each creature responds cordially. When he finally reaches the tree, he tells Ben that he is already less afraid. Ben happily realizes that he can do all the things he'd originally thought he couldn't do. Illustrated with beautiful pastel art, this story shows children how to find and make use of the courage inside them.

Ages: 2-6
Cultural Context: European

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Doo-Wop Pop by Roni Schotter

Illustrated by Bryan Collier. 32 p., Amistad, 2008.

Sometimes when you're shy, what helps the most is learning to trust yourself. In this story, Elijah Earl learns to trust his own sense of the music he hears in the world all around him - the sounds of footsteps, laughter, turning pages and folding paper, dribbling basketballs, a clock ticking. His school janitor, nicknamed Doo-Wop Pop because of the way he sings and dances as he works, is the source of this wisdom. He brings together five shy children, encouraging them to come out of their shells by making music and teaching them to dance and to find music in everyday sounds. To Elijah Earl's delight, the group sounds good together, and teachers and kids applaud when they sing in the stairwell. And, of course, he has four new friends. The story ends with a stage performance, as Elijah Earl acknowledges both the reality of the group's stage fright and his simultaneous experience that in spite of this, they sing well. The irresistibly energetic rhythms and rhymes of the text draw readers into the story ("He says he was quite the sight! He wore a suit so gleaming white, some folks said it was made of moonlight"). This gives readers some of what Doo-Wop Pop gives the kids: a subjective sense of the joy of sounds. The textured, multilayered illustrations help to convey the children's emotions and experiences. Elijah Earl's example can help kids to find their own voice, and in doing this, to move through shyness in a solid and profound way.

Ages: 4-8
Cultural Context: African American

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Angelina's Island by Jeanette Winter

32 p., Frances Foster Books/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007.

Moving to a new country can feel abrupt and discontinuous. This is Angelina's experience when her family moves from Jamaica to New York City. New York seems gray, cold, and lonely to her, and in her dreams, she returns to the warm sun and vibrant colors of Jamaica – vividly represented in the colorful illustrations – and to her old friends and her grandmother. One of Angelina's happy memories is of dancing at Carnival with her friends. When she has the opportunity to participate in a Carnival parade in New York, she prepares for it, all the while feeling that it won't make up for missing Jamaica. But when the parade music begins, Angelina experiences this as a part of home. Through her participation in the parade, she can feel that she's at home in New York. With Angelina, children will see that it's possible to make connections between an old home and a new one - to bring the old home to the new - and in doing this, to feel at home in a new place.

Ages: 3-7
Cultural Context: Afro-Caribbean

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Brothers and Sisters by Laura Dwight

34 p., Star Bright, 2005.

In this book, children introduce themselves and their siblings. Many of the children have disabilities: deafness/hearing impairment, blindness, congenital amputation, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, and Asperger's syndrome. The narrating child explains in simple language what the disability is and describes some of the family's experiences - some directly related to the disability, some not. A glossary describes the disabilities, and a resource list is included. Illustrated with color photographs that capture the children's warm relationships, this book normalizes, informs, and promotes acceptance.

Ages: 5-8
Cultural Context: multicultural

About the Author

My photo
Jacqueline Golding, Ph.D. is a psychologist in private practice in Pleasanton, California who works with children, teens, and adults. A graduate of Yale University, Dr. Golding earned her Ph.D. in psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles and completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the Central Contra Costa County Child, Adolescent, and Family Mental Health Service in Concord, California. She holds an appointment as Professor Emeritus at the University of California, San Francisco and has published over 100 articles in scientific and professional journals on topics such as trauma, depression, and cultural issues in mental health. Dr. Golding is represented by the Levine Greenberg Literary Agency.

Blog Archive