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, 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

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