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, February 28, 2010

The Big Meow by Elizabeth Spires

Illustrated by Cynthia Jabar. 40 p., Candlewick, 2002.

The other cats won't play with Little Cat because they think his voice is too loud, even though his parents reassure him that it's wonderful. When a bulldog chases the cats, Little Cat tries to scare it away with a big meow. At first Little Cat is too scared to do this, but when the dog teases him, he gets angry, and lets out meows that blow the dog away to the next town. After this, the other cats accept Little Cat. This story will help children see how to detach others' "negative" labels from their attributes.

Ages 3-5
Main character's cultural background: non-human
Cultural context: non-human

Monday, February 22, 2010

Molly's Rosebush by Janice Cohn

Illustrated by Gail Owens. 32 p., Whitman, 1994.

Molly recalls her mother's miscarriage a few months earlier. Her parents had gently explained to her that the baby they were looking forward to was not going to be born, because the baby was not strong enough to survive. Molly had worried about her mom and had wondered why miscarriage happens and whether the family would ever have a baby. Her dad had reassured her that no matter what happened, she and her parents would love and care for each other. She was helped to understand the experience both by playing with her doll and through special attention from her grandma, who explains that in all of nature, not all babies get to be born. Molly and her grandma had ordered a rose bush for her mother. Molly recalls that although occasionally a bud does not bloom, and this makes her sad, most of the roses do bloom, and will continue to bloom. An extensive introduction for parents is included. This story offers empathy, validation, and a way through the grief of a miscarriage.

Ages 4-8
Main character's cultural background: European American
Cultural context: European American

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Friends! by Elaine Scott

Illustrated by Margaret Miller. 40 p., Atheneum, 2000.

This book describes friends as "people who like each other," and encourages readers to think about important aspects of friendship; for example, having fun together, helping each other, teaching each other new things, inviting new people into the friendship, trusting and accepting one another, understanding and respecting each other, and resolving disagreements. The author raises complex issues, such as refusing to do something you shouldn't, even if a friend asks you to. She comments that friends are valuable and special. A note to parents suggests ways to use the vignettes in the book to discuss friendship with children. This book offers children useful insights about friendship.

Ages 5-9
Main character's cultural background: none
Cultural context: multicultural

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Don't Say Ain't by Irene Smalls

Illustrated by Colin Bootman. 32 p., Charlesbridge, 2003.

It is 1957, and Dana, who is African American, is chosen to attend an advanced (integrated) school. Her best friends assume that she thinks she's "better" than they are, yet she doesn't feel she knows how to fit in at the advanced school. The two worlds have different languages: at home, people talk "like real people" and use the word ain't, whereas at school, ain't isn't allowed, and people talk "strange." Dana struggles with the idea that the language of school is somehow more acceptable (which her godmother encourages) and the idea that the language of home feels familiar and real. When Dana's teacher says ain't while visiting her home, Dana finally realizes that both languages are OK, just in different situations. At the same time, she's able to repair her friendships, telling her friends that she isn't better than them; instead, each has something she's especially good at, including Dana's academics. This story offers a way to value and belong to two cultures simultaneously.

Ages 4-10
Main character's cultural background: African American
Cultural context: multicultural

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Oliver Button Is a Sissy by Tomie dePaola

48 p., Harcourt Brace, 1979.

Oliver likes to play jump rope, read, draw, play dress-up, and especially, to dance. He doesn't like to play ball, mainly because he isn't good at it. His papa and his classmates call him a sissy. His parents send him to dancing school, saying it's for exercise. He learns to tap dance, and works hard to do well. But kids bully him because of his dancing. He performs in a talent show, where he is very disappointed not to win first prize. However, his parents express pride in him, and his classmates decide that he is a star, not a sissy. Individuals' talents aren't always consistent with stereotypes, and there's an important message here about being true to yourself, regardless of other people's arbitrary ideas about what you're supposed to like or be good at.

Ages: 4-7
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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