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, 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

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.

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