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, December 13, 2009

Always My Brother by Jean Reagan

Illustrated by Phyllis Pollema-Cahill. 32 p., Tilbury, 2009.

One way to maintain a connection with someone who has died is to do things that person did. In this story, Becky and her bother, John, love to play soccer. John is a goalie, and he encourages Becky to be one too. But they agree that then they couldn't practice together, so she drops the idea. After John's death, Becky feels sad, lonely, incomplete, and occasionally angry. Her parents are reassuring, and the family dog is a special support, always loving her. Slowly, Becky is able to find moments of joy in everyday life. When soccer season approaches, Dad offers to play goalie in practice with her. But she finds herself impatient with Dad's limited goalie skills and takes his place - making the important discovery that she has John's goalie skills within her. She has realized that John is always with her, inside. In deciding to be her team's goalie, she completes her mourning process. Although John's death is mentioned very abruptly - perhaps reflecting Becky's experience of it - and nothing about its cause is mentioned, this story offers children hope for healing from grief.

Ages: 7-11
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, December 6, 2009

This Place I Know: Poems of Comfort by Georgia Heard

46 p., Candlewick, 2002.

This Place I Know is an anthology of poems collected to offer comfort to the children who witnessed the tragedy of the World Trade Centers. Each poem is beautifully illustrated by a different distinguished artist. The poems acknowledge loss; one is an incantation against troubles. They remind children of the possibility of hope; encourage them to sustain their dreams; and speak of the comfort in having someone with you; the constancy of nature in spite of upheaval; the intrinsic liveliness of cities; and the potential for unity of people around the world. I only take issue with one poem, which says repeatedly, "Do not grieve," because when there is loss, we must grieve. This deeply moving collection is a source of support for children who have experienced loss or trauma in their many forms.

Ages: 6-11
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Grumpy Morning by Pamela Duncan Edwards

Illustrated by Darcia Labrosse. 25 p., Hyperion, 1998.

This story is more about day-to-day grumpiness than full-blown anger. One morning, all the farm animals ask to be fed, cuddled, or milked, in ways that have a strong resemblance to the voices of cranky toddlers. When the farmer wakes up, she greets them all cheerfully and gives them everything they need. Her calm response supports children's sense that that their irritability can be contained.

Ages: 2-4
Cultural Context: non-human

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Day We Met You by Phoebe Koehler

40 p., Bradbury Press, 1990.

When a mother and father receive a phone call saying it's time to adopt their baby, they lovingly assemble all the things a baby needs: a car seat, bottles, formula, diapers, pajamas, shirts, socks, pacifiers, a mobile, a teddy bear, a quilt, and a cradle. They decorate the baby's room with wind chimes and flowers. As the story ends, they fall instantly in love with the baby. An afterword discusses ways to talk with children about their adoption. This story offers very young children an understanding of adoption that emphasizes' parents love and caring.

Ages: 2-4
Cultural Context: European American

Sunday, November 8, 2009

See You Soon, Moon by Donna Conrad.

Illustrated by Don Carter. 30 p., Knopf, 2001.

 This story is about taking a little part of home with us when we go away. One night, a boy and his parents leave for a trip to Grandma's house. The boy says goodbye to his room, his yard, his favorite toys (though he reconsiders saying goodbye to his blanket and takes it with him), and the moon. He's surprised to find that the moon comes along with them. This story shows kids that unfamiliar surroundings don't have to feel completely strange.

Ages: 1-3
Cultural Context: European American

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Lotus Seed by Sherry Garland

Illustrated by Tatsuro Kiuchi. 32 p., Harcourt/Voyager, 1993.

A Vietnamese girl tells how her grandmother collected a lotus seed to remember the emperor's courage when he lost his throne. The grandmother marries, and her husband goes off to war. She keeps the seed, with her through many situations that require courage of her: from her husband's departure, bombings, flight to the United States in a boat, and the adjustment and hard work she faces in the new land. Eventually, the narrator's brother, curious, steals and plants the seed. Their grandmother is distraught at the loss of the seed - but it eventually grows and blooms, "the flower of life and hope." It produces new seeds, some of which the grandmother gives to her grandchildren, saving one to remember the emperor's courage. The narrator plans to plant her seed someday, and to give the seeds to the children she will have. This story shows children a way to make life-sustaining meaning in spite of devastation.

Ages: 5-8
Cultural Context: Asian American

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Harriet and the Roller Coaster by Nancy Carlson

32 p., Carolrhoda, 2003.

Harriet (a dog) is afraid to ride the roller coaster, until she does it and finds that it's fun for her. Her classmate, George, doesn't think he's afraid, but when he's on it, finds it frightening. This story shows kids that they may be braver than they think - and that people who seem brave may not really be so courageous. It will also help kids keep an open mind about deciding which situations are scary.

Ages: 3-7
Cultural Context: non-human

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Cat's Got My Tongue! by Carolyn Ortiz

Illustrated by Joe Lee. 32 p., Author House, 2006.

Sometimes, when children are anxious they may find it difficult to speak. Such is the case for Emma, who is frightened as she starts first grade, thinking about how people will expect her to be more grown-up than they did last year. When a classmate, Sarah, introduces herself. Emma's hands tremble, and she's so preoccupied with "what ifs" that she can't speak. Sarah asks whether "'Cat's got your tongue?'" Emma takes this idea into her imagination, where she sees a cat, dressed in a three-piece suit, grinning and holding her tongue in a box. Emma is unable to talk all day, still trembling and full of "what ifs." The cat laughs at her. After school, Emma confronts the problem and the cat. The cat tells her that he will keep her tongue for as long as Emma would like. As Emma thinks about this, she talks to herself in ways that calm her, first grounding herself in concrete reality ("I have big brown eyes...") and then in more abstract knowledge ("I'm good at jump rope"). She acknowledges to herself that each person is unique, and none has to be perfect. At this moment, she finds her tongue - and with it, her voice. The next day at school, she talks comfortably to her classmates and has fun playing with them. She shows her class a picture she's made of the cat, and tells them that he had taken a part of her. But she makes it clear to the cat that her tongue is hers now! When worries make children feel out of control, this empathic story gives them a powerful way to take back their voice.

Ages: 4-8
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Oliver At the Window by Elizabeth Shreeve

Illustrated by Candice Hartsough McDonald. 32 p., Front Street, 2009.

When your parents are separated, not knowing which home you're going to can be a source of insecurity. We can feel Oliver's uncertainty as he stands by the window at preschool while the other children play, holding his stuffed lion and wondering who is going to pick him up. As time goes on, he's able to spend less time at the window and play with his classmates. He uses art to work through his struggle, painting pictures of both homes, each with his lion in it. When a sad new girl enters the class, Oliver compassionately joins her at the window, showing her how his lion is a comfort to him. He has moved through his pain and made a new friend. With its gentle, empathic depiction of Oliver's experiences, this sensitive story validates children's sadness and gives hope for resolving it.

Ages: 3-6
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Princess and the Potty by Wendy Cheyette Lewison.

Illustrated by Rick Brown. 33 p., Simon & Schuster, 1994.

A little princess refuses to use her potty because it "doesn't please" her. Her parents try fancy potties, singing and reading to her, making sure she has company, and sitting on the potties themselves, but nothing motivates the princess. A royal wise man tells them that she'll use the potty when she wants to. What finally motivates her is getting "pantalettes" like her mother's. When she has these, she'd rather use the potty, because if she put on a diaper, she'd have to take the pantalettes off. A limitation is that the king and queen are depicted as worrying about what the neighbors will say about the princess's refusal to use the potty. The gently humorous illustrations depict the princess's facial expressions particularly well. Children who don't want to use the potty can find empathy in this story. If they are struggling with issues around who has control, this story can help them to realize that choosing to use the potty can actually be an active choice on their part.

Ages: 2-5
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Dad and Me in the Morning by Patricia Lakin

Illustrated by Robert G. Steele. 32 p., Whitman, 1994.

Jacob, a child of about five who is deaf, gets up early with his father so they can watch the sun rise on the beach together. Jacob sees a rabbit, smells fragrant pine trees, and feels the sand, shells, and seaweed underfoot as he waits excitedly for the sun. He feels a sense of wonder as the day finally dawns. The closeness between Jacob and his Dad shows kids the joy and safety of sharing a special time with someone who understands them.

Ages: 4-8
Cultural Context: European American

Sunday, September 13, 2009

There's a Little Bit of Me in Jamey by Diana M .Amadeo

Illustrated by Judith Friedman. 32 p., Whitman, 1989.

Brian's little brother, Jamey, has leukemia. The story begins with Jamey receiving chemotherapy in the hospital. Brian's feelings of abandonment and anger are depicted sensitively, and his parents are responsive to them. Jamey becomes ill again and receives radiation treatment. Brian's parents tell him that Jamey needs a bone marrow transplant from him. Brian is afraid, but he decides to do it because he loves Jamey and wants him to get well. The story ends with Brian's hope that Jamey will be able to come home and get well because of the transplant. It offers empathy for children whose sibling is seriously ill, and hope that their actions can make a genuinely positive difference.

Ages: 8-12
Cultural Context: European American

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Timothy Duck: The Story of the Death of a Friend (revised edition) by Lynn Bennett Blackburn

Illustrated by D. L. Godfrey. 24 p., Centering Corp., 1999.

Timothy is a special duck because he wonders about the reasons for lots of things. He makes friends with John, a boy who also wonders a great deal, and who talks to Timothy and feeds him special treats. As time goes on, John becomes less active, and Timothy's mother explains that John may be sick. Timothy feels angry and scared, wondering whether children can die. Eventually, John's mother and sister come to the pond without John, and Timothy realizes that he has died. Timothy says goodbye to John at his burial. He expresses feelings of confusion, anger, and vulnerability. He is afraid to love because he risks the death of the one he loves, yet he realizes that he would feel even more empty if he didn't love anyone. A talk with a duck friend, who has endured the death of her sister, helps. A year later, he remembers the emptiness he'd felt when John died, but realizes that he will always have his memories of John, and that he can survive grief. This story offers children empathy with complex feelings, along with gentle reassurance that they, too, can tolerate grief.

Ages: 6-9
Cultural Context: non-human

Sunday, August 30, 2009

I Love My Hair! by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley

Illustrated by E. B. Lewis. 26 p., Little, Brown, 1998.

Although it hurts when Keyana's Mama combs the tangled spots in her hair, the combing is part of a bedtime routine in which Keyana feels close to Mama. Mama tells her she's lucky to have this hair because it's beautiful, and she can wear it in any style she chooses. Keyana's descriptions of different hair styles, along with the watercolor illustrations, convey her deep sense of enjoyment of who she is and her pride in her African-American heritage. Children will understand how to use another person's support to transform a culturally devalued sense of self into a positive one.

Ages: 3-8
Cultural Context: African American

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Good-Bye, Bully Machine by Debbie Fox and Allan L. Beane

Illustrated by Debbie Fox. 48 p., Free Spirit, 2009.

Bullying is a pervasive problem in many environments. This non-fiction book uses the metaphor of bullying as a machine - scary, loud, powerful, cold, mean, and dangerous-looking - revealing the dehumanizing quality of bullying. The authors expose fundamentally abusive nature of bullying, saying that it is "trying to have power over somebody." They describe bullying as consisting of cruel speech and/or behavior, whether done openly or secretively. Clearly stating that being "a bully" is not an inherent characteristic, and that people can learn to stop bullying behavior, they describe who gets bullied, who bullies others, and how kids respond to bullying. Many suggestions for stopping bullying are included, including speaking kindly, telling a bully to stop specific behaviors, and reporting bullies. There's lots of encouragement for kids to stand together against bullying, and break down the machine. Illustrated with vibrant, inspiring collages, this book is a constructive resource for empowering children to end bullying.

Ages: 8-13
Cultural Context: none

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Stretching Ourselves: Kids with Cerebral Palsy by Alden R. Carter

Illustrated by Carol S. Carter. 40 p., Whitman, 2000.

In this book, when kids are frustrated, instead of cussing, they name vegetables. When Emily is impatient, she says, "Radishes!" When she tries to comb a snarl out of Lizzy's hair, Lizzy hollers, "Celery!" These kids have more frustrations than most, because they have cerebral palsy (CP). As Mr. Carter explains, children who have CP "most work hard to learn things that come easily to others" - things related to mobility, learning, and perception. He explains that Emily used to struggle with these frustrations, but she has learned ways to stay calm, which she practices just as she practices other skills. The author explains what CP is in child-friendly terms and shows ways that children with different types and degrees of impairment cope. Mr. Carter acknowledges each child's individuality and strengths. The sensitive, yet straightforward, color photographs work together with the text to create a sense of connection between the reader and characters. An introduction for adults and resource list are included. This book offers empathy to children who have CP, and will help children who don't have CP to feel more comfortable with children who do.

Ages: 6-10
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Moose with Loose Poops by Charlotte Cowan MD

Illustrated by Penelope Neal. 32 p., Hippocratic Press, 2009.

Vomiting and diarrhea can be frightening to children, especially when they don't understand what's happening. In this story, as four-year-old Miles the moose happily shares his excitement about an upcoming camping trip with his Papa, he finds himself not hungry, needing his special stuffed animal, and with a tummy ache that comes and goes. Suddenly, he throws up. His Mama explains that his tummy "emptied itself the wrong way," reassures him that he'll feel better soon, and takes him home to nap. The next day, he feels all better, but when he's out with Papa, he has diarrhea - which Papa anticipates when Miles describes his symptoms. Papa explains that Miles has "pooped out the germs that made [him] sick," and reminds him to wash his hands. He and Miles's sister assure him that everyone has had diarrhea at some time. They postpone the camping trip for a few days, and when they go, there are shooting stars. Dr. Cowan's language is wonderfully descriptive and kid-friendly; for example, Miles tells his Papa, "A waterfall's coming out of my bottom!" and there's a hand-washing song. The colorful illustrations reflect the active quality of children's lives. The book includes a separate guide for parents to coping with children's gastroenteritis. With empathy for both children's misery when they're sick and their enjoyment of special times with their families, this story gives kids the information and reassurance they need to cope with tummy bugs.

Ages: 2-7
Cultural Context: non-human

Sunday, July 26, 2009

My School/Mi Escuela by Ginger Foglesong Guy

Illustrated by Viví Escrivá. 18 p., Rayo, 2006.

When children start school, they need to know what they'll find there. This bilingual (English/Spanish) book uses single words to answer children's questions - "children," "classroom," "teacher," indoor and outdoor equipment and materials, an owie on the playground, and finally, "friends" at "my school." Illustrated with delightful, friendly watercolors, this book can help even the youngest children learn about school, as well as learning some very useful everyday words in another language.

Ages: 1-5
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Mrs. Gorski, I Think I Have the Wiggle Fidgets by Barbara Esham

Illustrated by Mike Gordon and Carl Gordon. 30 p., Mainstream Connections, 2008.

Children who have ADHD may struggle with controlling their impulses. Such is the case with David, who explains that he upsets his teacher, Mrs. Gorski, every day, even though he doesn't want to. Finally Mrs. Gorski sends a note to his parents. His father dismisses her concerns: "'David just has the wiggle fidgets. I had the wiggle fidgets when I was a kid.'" But Mrs. Gorski wants to meet with the family. Before then, David decides to think of a cure for the "wiggle fidgets." He brings four cures to the meeting. First, he makes cards to put on his desk that say things like "FOCUS and LISTEN" and "What are the CONSEQUENCES?" He also brings a timer because he if he knows how long it's necessary to pay attention, he doesn't have to wonder about that, which presumably would distract him. Third, he brings a stress ball to fidget with, which helps him pay attention. Finally, he proposes that he be allowed to do things that involve physical activity, such as erasing the blackboard. Mrs. Gorski approves of these ideas and plans to implement them. In fact, it turns out that as a child, she had the "wiggle fidgets" too! As the story ends, she tells David, "many great minds come with the wiggle fidgets." This story supplies empathy for children who really do want to do what they're expected to. Not only does it present some helpful strategies for coping with ADHD, but also, it shows kids that kids who have ADHD may do an excellent job taking initiative and solving problems. These attributes make this story an excellent resource to support children in coping with ADHD.

Ages: 6-10
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Apple Doll by Elisa Kleven

32 p., Farrar Straus Giroux, 2007.

Starting school for the first time can bring concerns about being away from home and about making new friends. In this story, Lizzy is worried about both. She finds a great way to bring the security of home with her: her favorite thing at home is the apple tree in her yard, and she brings one of its apples, which comforts her when she misses home. But it isn't just an apple. Lizzy gives the apple a face and a stick body, and names her Susanna, and in Lizzy's imagination, Susanna promises to be her friend in this scary new place. When children tease Susanna, Lizzy tells her she doesn't have to go to school any more, but then Lizzy is lonely at school. Meanwhile, at home, her family is preserving apples for the winter, and they get the idea to preserve Susanna by drying her. She becomes a grandma doll that exudes strength, happiness, and wisdom. Lizzy's classmates are so impressed that her teacher invites her to show the class how to make apple people. After this, Lizzy and Susanna have lots of new friends. Instructions for making an apple doll are included. With colorful illustrations that are full of detail and energy, this story offers hope for bringing your own strength to a new and daunting experience.

Ages: 4-8
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Darkness by Mildred Pitts Walter

Illustrated by Marcia Jameson. 26 p., Simon & Schuster, 1995.

Whether or not you're afraid of the dark, wonderful things that happen there -- the beginning of human life in the darkness of the womb, the beginning of plant life and the formation of precious metals and stones in the darkness of the earth, and undersea life in the darkness of the sea. Even creative ideas begin in the darkness of inside the human mind. Because dreams are also mentioned as a benefit of darkness, this might be a less-appropriate choice for children who fear bad dreams. If this isn't a concern, this book can help change fearful children's perspectives on the dark to one of appreciation of its growth-promoting properties.

Ages: 1-7
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Tío Armando by Florence Parry Heide and Roxanne Heide Pierce

Illustrated by Ann Grifalconi. 32 p., Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 1998.

To resolve grief, children need to keep someone they love in their heart even after the person has died. Lucitita's favorite great-uncle, Tío Armando, comes to live with her, her parents, and her brothers and sister. During a year in the family's life, Tío Armando shows kindness, generosity, wisdom, and a remarkable capacity to bring the family together. He tells Lucitita that he will never leave her. When he dies at the end of the year, Lucitita feels sadness beyond tears, and at the same time understands that he will always be with her, beautifully illustrating this paradoxical combination that is a central component of mourning.

Ages: 5-9
Cultural Context: Latina

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Brenda Berman, Wedding Expert by Jane Breskin Zalben

Illustrated by Victoria Chess. 48 p., Clarion, 2009.

Sometimes a blended family comes in the form of the marriage of a favorite uncle who you thought you had all to yourself. Such is the case for Brenda when her favorite Uncle Harry announces his engagement. Brenda will have to share Uncle Harry not only with her new Aunt Florrie, but also with Florrie's niece, her new cousin Lucy. And to top it all off, Brenda has always dreamed very specific dreams of being a flower girl at a wedding, but now the wedding plans will be made according to Florrie's preferences. Brenda is absolutely sure that she'll never like Lucy or forgive Uncle Harry. But when things don't go the way she expects, she enlists Lucy in a plan to make them right. The two girls end up as good friends, Brenda's special vision is acknowledged and appreciated, and Brenda forgives Uncle Harry and accepts her new family. With Brenda, children can learn that even though you can't always have things the way you want them, you can not only survive what feels like disaster, but you can also discover good experiences that you never would have predicted.

Ages: 6-9
Cultural Context: European American

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Little Elephant With a Big Earache by Charlotte Cowan, MD

Illustrated by Elaine Garvin. 32 p., Hippocratic Press, 2004.

Earaches are virtually universal among young children. They can worry kids, particularly when they start during the night, as so often happens. This is the experience of Eddie the elephant, just when his cousins have come to celebrate his birthday with him. His mom takes his temperature, gives him medicine and lots of reassurance, and rocks him back to sleep. In the morning, she takes him to Dr. Hippo. Gentle Dr. Hippo asks Eddie's mom to monitor the fever and malaise and to bring him back if he gets worse. Eddie's infection clears up quickly on its own, and he enjoys his birthday party. Eddie is a good role model - he expresses his concerns, but tolerates discomfort. For example, he hates his bad-tasting medicine, but swallows it, and at Dr. Hippo's office, he wants to go home, but stays. He also takes good care of himself by finding his mom when he feels sick. There are some wonderful details of anthropomorphized elephant life - when it's time for dinner, Eddie's mom tells the kids to squirt themselves off! The illustrations are colorful and child-friendly, with very expressive faces. A separate guide for parents (in a pocket inside the back cover) gives helpful information and advice about caring for and seeking medical help for a child with an ear infection. Fun and exuberant while still acknowledging the realities of kids' fear and pain, this sweet story provides age-appropriate information and reassurance about ear infections.

Ages: 2-7
Cultural Context: non-human

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Big Brother Dustin by Alden R. Carter

Illustrated by Dan Young and Carol Carter. 32 p., Whitman, 1997.

Dustin's parents bring home great news: they are going to have a baby girl. Dustin is very excited. He helps get the baby's room ready, takes a class for older siblings at the hospital, and, with his mother, reads a book about having a new baby in your family. But his biggest job is thinking of a name for the baby. He works hard at this, and comes up with the perfect name, MaryAnn, after his grandmothers, Mary and Ann. The story ends with a delightful album of pictures of Dustin and MaryAnn playing together. Dustin has Down syndrome. Illustrated with emotionally resonant color photographs, this story conveys excitement and warmth.

Ages: 3-7
Cultural Context: European American

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Stitchin' and Pullin' by Patricia McKissack

Illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera. 48 p., Random House, 2008.

Baby Girl plays under the quilting frame as the women of her family create the famous quilts of Gee's Bend, Alabama. Listening to them, she not only learns homemaking and parenting skills, but also absorbs the ability to make meaning through art. With a piece of her Grandma's dress at its heart, Baby Girl's first quilt celebrates African American people's strength, hope, and determination in the face of racism, and tells the stories of the heroes in the fight against it. This moving story beautifully stitches together themes of coming of age, the strength of community, triumph over racism, and creativity.

Ages: 6-10
Cultural Context: African American

Sunday, May 24, 2009

My Friend the Doctor by Joanna Cole

Illustrated by Maxie Chambliss. 24 p., HarperCollins, 2005.

Children may have worries when visiting their doctor for a checkup. This story provides an upbeat role model who is "just like you" in a little girl who tolerates a checkup calmly and copes successfully with the pain of an immunization. It explains what happens at a well-child visit and why, in age-appropriate ways that reflects children's perspectives. For example, when the doctor palpates the child's belly, she says, "That tickles." The upbeat, gentle illustrations and direct, often humorous text (the doctor looks in the child's ears, asking if she has an elephant in there) make it clear to kids that they can feel safe and comfortable at their checkup. An afterword for parents describes ways to support children in coping with any stress they may feel around physician visits. This book can help make it easier for children to manage visits to the doctor.

Ages: 0-4
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Seeing Things My Way by Alden R. Carter

Illustrated by Carol S. Carter. 32 p., Whitman, 1998.

A second-grade girl named Amanda explains that she has a vision impairment and tells its history. She describes both the ways she copes with it (using Close-Circuit Television to enlarge letters in books, learning Braille, regular medical checkups, physical therapy to address difficulty with balance that's due to limited depth perception) and the everyday things she enjoys (shopping for food with her mother and sisters, going to slumber parties, having her father read to her). Photographs illustrate the contrast between ordinary vision and Amanda's perception. Amanda tells about other kinds of visual impairments and the ways kids cope with them. Acknowledging that she doesn't like being vision-impaired, by admiring both famous and everyday people who have vision impairments, she remains genuinely optimistic. She also acknowledges her personal strength. Realistic, informative, and positive, this story can help both children who have vision impairments and to those who could benefit from understanding others' difficulties with seeing.

Ages: 4-9
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Think Happy! by Nancy Carlson

34 p., Carolrhoda, 2009.

When children are feeling unhappy, it's easy for them forget what makes them feel good. With a suggestion on each page, this book is full of wonderful reminders. These include telling yourself you're cool, thinking positive thoughts, speaking up for yourself, and asking for help; having fun by playing outside or having a party; and taking good physical care of yourself by getting good sleep and exercise. The author also encourages kids to have positive interactions with others, to soothe themselves, and to reassure themselves that they're loved. Many of these ideas may be helpful for kids who are feeling angry or worried, as well as those who are feeling sad. And it's hard to be unhappy when you look at the brightly-colored illustrations. Not all of the ideas will work for all children all the time, but this "coping tool kit," provides lots of constructive places to start.

Ages: 5-9
Cultural Context: non-human

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sarah's Waterfall by Ellery Akers

Illustrated by Angelique Benicio. 52 p., Safer Society, 2009.

When children have been sexually abused, they may feel fearful, ashamed, guilty, sad, and different from other kids. As this story opens, elementary-school-age Sarah, who has been sexually abused by her stepfather, describes these feelings. Written in the form of her journal, Sarah's Waterfall chronicles her healing from this traumatic experience. Sarah's mother has died, and she lives with her Gram. Sarah is safe with Gram, who reassures her that she is beautiful and good. When Sarah is sad, Gram assures her of her devotion to her and her willingness accompany her through the process of her recovery. Gram also provides a loving, ordinary life for Sarah, playing cards with her, taking her to museums and out to lunch, and taking care of her when she has a cold and when she needs glasses. Sarah also participates in a group for sexually abused girls that is led by her school psychologist, Mrs. Bell. The group does exercises to help work through their painful feelings and to learn to feel strong again. One of the most significant for Sarah is drawing; in particular, drawing what it feels like to feel clean. In the group, Sarah meets a new best friend, Paula, who is also a wonderful source of support. By the end of the story, Sarah has moved through her fear, shame, and aloneness, and is taking delight in everyday things. This story can be a source of empathy, support, and hope as children recover from the trauma of sexual abuse.

Ages: 7-12
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Charlie's Treasures by Richard Neumann

Illustrated by Dian de Wolf. 36 p., Stone In the Surf Press, 2003.

Charlie proudly shows his collection of marbles to an old man who listens carefully with empathy and appreciation. Charlie tells the story of each marble and explains why each is special. Like friends - and like parts of oneself - Charlie's treasures embody attributes such as endurance, toughness, happy energy, introspection and thought, creativity, and individuality. This story may encourage children to value their own uniqueness and treasure their connections.

Ages: 8-10
Cultural Context: European American

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Is Lydia Strange? by Sarah Crowther

20 p., 2006.

Children who have Asperger's syndrome often experience painful social rejection. When Lydia's family moves, she enrolls at a new school, where she is immediately rejected and bullied by girls who are intolerant of her difficulty understanding a figure of speech. They tear the arm off Lydia's stuffed rabbit, who feels to Lydia like her only friend. Fortunately, another classmate, Jenny, is kind to Lydia. Lydia tells Jenny that she has Asperger's syndrome and explains in a very accessible way that for her, it involves having "certain interests or obsessions," discomfort in crowds, a consistent daily routine, hand flapping when upset, and inability to understand body language, facial expression, and tone of voice. In a gesture full of wonderful symbolic meaning, Jenny sews Lydia's rabbit's arm back on. When she affirms her friendship with Lydia, Lydia is empowered to explain her Asperger's syndrome to her class. She concludes with the important message, "'It doesn't really matter how different you are from everyone else. You are special in your own way.'" Ultimately, even the girls who bullied her become her friends. This story was written and charmingly illustrated by a young woman who herself has Asperger's syndrome. It can both explain Asperger's syndrome to children who are unfamiliar with it and provide hope, encouragement, and positive modeling for children experiencing it.

Ages: 7-11
Cultural Context: European American

This book is hard to find, but is available by email from Beverly Crowther, bkelc@comcast.net, for a cost of $10.00 plus $2.00 for shipping. 

Monday, April 6, 2009

Emma's Question by Catherine Urdahl

Illustrated by Janine Dawson. 32 p., Charlesbridge, 2009.

When someone close is seriously ill, children may worry about whether the person will die. This is Emma's struggle when her Grandma becomes ill and is hospitalized just as she's scheduled to read to Emma's kindergarten class. Emma immediately wonders whether Grandma is dying, but can't bring herself to ask, even when Mama invites her to talk about Grandma. Emma's parents are sad, her classmate is insensitive, and she's so preoccupied that lots of little things go wrong. She misses the security of her routines with Grandma. When Emma is finally allowed to visit Grandma at the hospital, after several days, she can't help asking whether she's dying. Although Mama is aghast, Grandma is accepting, and tells Emma that she isn't going to die right away - "'Sometime ... But not now.'" With Grandma, Emma finds ways to adapt their routines during the hospitalization, and this helps restore Emma's sense of security and connection. Without giving false reassurance, this story offers hope, along with acceptance children's worries.

Ages: 5-8
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Kids Need to Be Safe: A Book for Children in Foster Care by Julie Nelson

Illustrated by Mary Gallagher. 32 p., Free Spirit, 2006.

When children are in foster care, they are often traumatized, confused, and full of conflicting emotions. This book explains that parents usually take good care of children, but sometimes they have problems that lead them to need help with this - problems like homelessness, substance abuse, and violence. Although relatives may help take care of children, so can police, social workers, and foster parents. The recurrent message of this book is "Kids are important. Kids need to be safe." Ms. Nelson explains in very simple language what foster parents do, and acknowledges some of the feelings kids have when they're in foster care. Notes for adults describe children's experiences in foster care and suggest caring responses, and refer adults to resources such as books and organizations. This book can be a soothing source of empathy for young children in foster care.

Ages: 3-8
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Jack's Talent by Maryann Cocca-Leffler

32 p., Farrar Straus Giroux, 2007.

Sometimes children may not be aware of attributes they could be proud of. Such is the case for Jack as he starts school. His teacher, Miss Lucinda, asks all the children in his class to tell her what their special talent is. When it's Jack's turn, he says that he isn't good at anything. But Miss Lucinda recognizes that he's good at remembering - he has remembered all the other children's names and talents. This story not only encourages children to identify their talents, but also shows them how to do this and gives examples of big and small things they can be proud of - from soccer and spelling to bug catching and dog training.

Ages: 2-6
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Sharing Is Fun by Joanna Cole

Illustrated by Maxie Chambliss. 32 p., HarperCollins, 2004.

Andrew's friends Emily and Joshua are coming over for a play date. He and Mommy get ready by baking cookies and preparing a pitcher of juice. They also put away toys that Andrew doesn't want to share, and Mommy reminds him to share his other toys. The three preschoolers have fun playing, mostly each on his or her own. At one point Andrew wants to play with his fire truck while Emily is playing with it, and Mommy tells him it will be his turn when Emily is all done. He finds another toy to play with while he's waiting. Sharing is an important part of friendship, and this story shows young children how to share, and a way to cope when they can't have what they want.

Ages: 1-4
Cultural Context: European American

Sunday, March 1, 2009

How To Be by Lisa Brown

32 p., HarperCollins, 2006

Imagination is not only fun, but also, it's good for you. In encouraging children to make believe they are a bear, a monkey, and other animals, this story shows them that learning these animals' attributes will also teach them how to be human. For example, when you make believe you're a bear, you should be brave, and to be a person, you should also be brave. Together, the text and the rather old-fashioned color illustrations inspire a sense of playfulness. Children will understand that they can take make-believe with them into all aspects of their lives.

Ages: 0-3
Cultural Context: European American

Sunday, February 22, 2009

When Stories Fell Like Shooting Stars by Valiska Gregory

Illustrated by Stefano Vitale. 40 p., Simon & Schuster, 1996.

The author invites the reader to decide whether the Fox's story or Bear's story is true. In Fox's story, the sun falls from the sky, and Fox uses it to become the determiner of night and day. Other animals disrupt Fox's domination with domination of their own, until factionism eventually leads to war. Each army says the sun belongs to them. In Bear's story, the moon falls from the sky. Believing that the moon does not belong to the animals, he conceives a plan to return it to its right place in the sky. When several animals have pushed the limits of their endurance, the moon is finally restored to its home, where all can see it. This book shows children how arbitrary selfishness leads to war, whereas when people cooperate with one another, even when it's hard, everyone has what they need - including peace.

Ages: 7-11
Cultural Context: non-human

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Frannie's Fruits by Leslie Kimmelman

Illustrated by Petra Mathers. 32 p., Harper & Row, 1989.

A girl tells the story about spending a summer day at her family's produce stand near the beach, helping with the work of selling fruits and vegetables, watching customers, playing with her dog, Frannie, and her best friend -- and eating a big salad for lunch (though her sister picks out the cauliflower and mushrooms). Although nutrition isn't addressed directly, the fruits and vegetables are an appealing part of the story.

Ages: 4-8
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, February 8, 2009

One More Time, Mama by Sue Alexander

Illustrated by David Soman. 32 p., Marshall Cavendish, 1999.

A little girl asks her mama to tell her about her pregnancy. Mama describes all the seasons of waiting for her daughter's birth as the two watch fireflies and walk home, and the girl goes to bed. As Mama tucks her daughter in, she tells her that it wasn't hard to wait because it was she that she was waiting for. Children will feel secure in the sense of closeness between mother and daughter.

Ages: 3-5
Cultural Context: European American

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Dear Daddy by John Schindel

Illustrated by Dorothy Donahue. 24 p., Whitman, 1995.

Jesse lives with his mother, far away from his father. He feels sad and frustrated when his phone conversations with his father seem too short, so he writes his father a letter. At first his father doesn't respond, and he writes another. The reader senses that Jesse is worried that his father doesn't love him. Finally, his father writes him a poster-sized letter, explaining that he'd been away when Jesse's letters had arrived and inviting him to spend the summer. Jesse's joy and relief are clear. Jesse's mother is supportive of his relationship with his father and understanding of his feelings. This story offers empathy to children in similar situations, and reassurance that a parent who doesn't live with them still loves them.

Ages: 3-7
Cultural Context: European American

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Empty Place: A Child’s Guide Through Grief by Roberta Temes

Illustrated by Kim Carlisle. 48 p., Small Horizons, 1992.

A third-grade boy sometimes feels empty, sad, lonely, guilty, or scared because his sister, Jennifer, died after an illness. He is supported by a babysitter, Betsy, whose brother died in an accident. Betsy encourages the boy to remember Jennifer in ways that are helpful to him, and to talk to people about his feelings. She helps him to resolve his guilty feelings. She reassures him that his acute feelings of grief are not permanent, and that his parents will joke with him again. She encourages him to write his thoughts and feelings about Jennifer in a special notebook. He will use the notebook to keep his experiences of Jennifer with him always. This story offers children acceptance, a sense that others have had similar experiences, and a specific way to cope with grief.

Ages: 7-10
Cultural Context: European American

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Leaving the Nest by Mordicai Gerstein

34 p., Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007.

Growing up can come with lots of feelings and can mean trying out lots of new ways to be independent. In this story, a girl, a kitten, and a baby bird show some of these experiences. Curiosity, fascination, and self-confidence are set against uncertainty, lack of control, and a need to stay safe. Each character makes tentative steps toward independence, some going well at first, some going badly. Readers experience each character's perspective (as well as the mother bird's point of view) as the baby bird falls, the kitten tries to catch it, and the girl rescues it - only to find herself uncomfortably high up on a ladder when she tries to return it to its nest. Although she's independent enough to attempt this rescue, she's also able to get her Mommy's help when she needs it. Soon, everyone is in their right places and well taken care of, and the baby bird flies successfully. Children will find empathy for many of their own experiences of considering (or not considering) "leaving the nest."

Ages: 3-7
Cultural Context: European American

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Donut Chef by Bob Staake

40 p., Golden, 2008.

Getting caught up in competition can make us lose sight of what's really important. That's what happens to the donut chef of this rhyming story, along with everyone around him. He opens a very successful donut shop, but when another chef opens a competing shop, each tries so hard to outdo the other that what they're making stops resembling donuts. That is, until two-year-old Debbie Sue comes in and asks for a glazed donut. This leads other people to realize what they've been missing. In response, the chef begins to make glazed donuts - and eventually, nothing but glazed donuts. The illustrations are geometric and rather retro-looking, and the language is lively and fun; for example, "Some were square and some were starry,/Some looked just like calamari!/Some were airy, some were cone-y!/Some resembled macaroni!" In addition to showing children the sense of disconnectedness that can come from of excessive competition, this story also reminds them that it can be worthwhile to keep things simple.

Ages: 3-6
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, January 4, 2009

When I Was Five by Arthur Howard

40 p., Harcourt, 1996.

Six-year-old Jeremy tells about how very different things are now, compared to when he was five. He has different career goals (a baseball player or a diver, not an astronaut or a cowboy) and a different favorite car, favorite dinosaur, and favorite hiding place. But the one thing that stays the same is that Mark is still his best friend. This story makes a nice statement about being able to count on a friend in a changing world.

Ages: 4-7
Cultural Context: European American

About the Author

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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.

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