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.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Night of the Goat Children by J. Patrick Lewis

Illustrated by Alexi Natchev. 32 p., Dial, 1999.

Outlaws attack the walled city of Beda, which is ruled by the princess Birgitta the Brave. The princess devises a plan in which she tricks the outlaws into believing that Beda is ruled by a sorceress who can turn humans into goats. Five children, disguised as goats, contribute to the success of her plan, which leads to the outlaws' terrified retreat. According to an afterword, the story is based on real events. The illustrations effectively convey the outlaw leader's ferocity, the princess's wisdom, and the children's innocence. War often makes children (and adults) feel helpless and overwhelmed, and certainly children should be protected from war, not brought in to fight it in any way. But the fantasy of children's power in this story will work against their sense of helplessness.

Ages 5-8
Main character's cultural background: European
Cultural context: European

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Good-Bye Book by Judith Viorst

Illustrated by Kay Chorao. 32 p., Atheneum, 1988.

A boy, about three years old, angrily tries to keep his parents from going out to dinner and leaving him with a babysitter. He expresses a lot of worries about what might happen with a babysitter; for example, a sitter might force him to eat vegetables. He asks his parents to stay for another story, tells them he's sick, and threatens to run away to find new parents who never go out. He doesn't want to say goodbye. In two wordless pages, he makes a connection with the babysitter and becomes willing to say goodbye to his parents. This book would be best for children who have already expressed the angry feelings that the child expresses in the story. They will have the opportunity to see that their angry feelings can be contained, and that it might be OK to stay with a sitter in spite of their expectations.

Ages 3-6
Main character's cultural background: European American
Cultural context: European American

Monday, May 17, 2010

Our Friendship Rules by Peggy Moss and Dee Dee Tardif

Illustrated by Alissa Imre Geis. 32 p., Tilbury House, 2007.

Sometimes kids can do mean things out of a wish to be accepted and to be cool. Such is the case for Alexandra. Jenny has always been her best friend, but then Rolinda shows up at school. Rolinda is the coolest kid ever, and Alexandra immediately wants her as a friend. She succeeds in impressing Rolinda, but only by (literally) hobbling herself. But Rolinda rejects Jenny. To win Rolinda's acceptance, Alexandra says that Jenny isn't her friend any more, and even tells Rolinda one of Jenny's secrets. When Jenny is angry and hurt, Alexandra realizes how much she values their friendship, and she apologizes. Jenny and Alexandra work together to decide how they will conduct their friendship in ways that protect it. When this happens, Alexandra finds that she can relate to Rolinda without giving up either her best friend or her sense of self. Empathizing with both Alexandra's and Jenny's experiences, this story shows kids a way to stay true to themselves, their values, and their friendships.

Ages 5-9
Main character's cultural background: ambiguous; perhaps African American or Latina
Cultural context: multicultural

Monday, May 3, 2010

When I Feel Afraid by Cheri J. Meiners

Illustrated by Meredith Johnson. 40 p., Free Spirit, 2003.

A girl tells about things that frighten her, both make-believe (for example, bad dreams, scary movies) and real (war and violence in the world). She describes coping strategies such as talking with a family member or other adult, playing with friends, thinking about other things (when worrying about something she can't change), drawing pictures, and taking deep breaths in a special quiet place. The girl explains how she knows to trust some adults, and mentions community helpers who can be trusted. A detailed note for adults describes ways to support children when they feel afraid, and includes a brief resource list. Children will benefit from knowing the coping strategies that the girl suggests, and can adopt some of her positive self-talk to use themselves.

Ages 2-6
Main character's cultural background: Latina
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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