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, 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

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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