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, November 29, 2010

Leon the Chameleon by Mélanie Watt

32 p., Kids Can Press, 2001.

Leon is a young chameleon who, instead of turning the same color as his surroundings, turns the opposite color. He's embarrassed about this difference and feels left out. But his feelings change when he sneaks along with the other chameleons to go exploring. They get lost, and Leon's contrasting color helps their parents find them. After this, he feels special instead of self-conscious about his difference. An afterword introduces color theory. This story helps children see that there is more than one way to interpret what makes them "different," and that it's possible to value their differences.

Ages 3-6
Main character's cultural background: non-human
Cultural context: non-human

Monday, November 22, 2010

Come Along, Daisy! by Jane Simmons

32 p., Little, Brown, 1998.

Children need to find a balance between exploration and safety. In this story, Mama duck keeps telling Daisy to "come along," but the duckling doesn't listen; she is busy watching fish, chasing dragonflies, and playing with a frog. When she finds herself alone, she starts to see dangerous animals, and she needs her mother. Mama soon finds her, and she feels safe again. After that, Daisy finds a way to explore while staying close to her mother. Daisy's curiosity, fear, and relief are clearly illustrated in her facial expressions. This book will help children understand how to use their relationship with an adult to help them feel secure as they explore the world in a way that is both fun and developmentally necessary.

Ages 2-4
Main character's cultural background: non-human
Cultural context: non-human

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sometimes We Were Brave by Pat Brisson

Illustrated by France Brassard. 32 p., Boyds Mills, 2010.

When your mom's away, it's hard to be brave. Jerome's mom is a sailor, and she asks him to be brave when her ship goes out to sea. But when she leaves, he doesn't feel brave - he feels sad. Although he misses Mom, Dad takes good care of him and the family dog, Duffy. They maintain their normal routines, and have both happy and difficult times. Jerome looks at a picture of Mom, and makes a book for her, to cope with missing her. Dad helps him to remember that just as he's thinking about Mom, she's thinking about him. Jerome generally copes well, but his experience of stress comes out in occasional bedwetting and getting into trouble at school. When there's a pet show at school, Jerome brings Duffy, who is scared. But Duffy does what he's supposed to do. Jerome's teacher explains to him that because Duffy did what he was supposed to do, even though he was scared, he'd been brave. And Jerome realizes that he, too, has been brave in his mother's absence. Now he can anticipate a joyful reunion with her. Children will find empathy, acceptance, and encouragement in this sensitively-told story.

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

Monday, November 8, 2010

Lights for Gita by Rachna Gilmore

Illus by Alice Priestley. 24 p., Tilbury House, 1994.

Sometimes it takes a great deal of creativity to see a new country as home. Gita has moved to North America from India because of her father's job. At first the move had seemed like an exciting adventure, but as Divali approaches, she misses India, her relatives, and the community celebration. When freezing rain threatens, it feels as if her new home can never really be home. Gita's mother helps her understand that Divali is a celebration of bringing light to darkness, and when the ice storm causes a power outage, the family's glowing diyas literally bring light to the neighborhood. Gita understands that she and her parents have, in fact, created light, and she's able to see the ice as a source of sparkling light too. Gita shows children the possibility of joy in integrating their experiences of their old home with those of their new home.

Ages 4-7
Main character's cultural background: Indian American
Cultural context: multicultural

Monday, November 1, 2010

Who Belongs Here? An American Story by Margy Burns Knight

Illus by Anne Sibley O'Brien. 40 p., Tilbury House, 1993.
Immigration can include both trauma in a child's country of birth and prejudice, as well as joy, in his or her new home. Nary, about 10 years old, is a refugee from Cambodia. His parents were killed and he lives with his grandmother and uncle in the United States. This story explains the war in Cambodia and describes Nary's immigration through a refugee camp in simple language. Nary is happy about much of his life in the U. S. and finds ways to own both Cambodian and U.S. cultures. However, his classmates sometimes call him names such as chink and tell him that he doesn't belong here. When he tells his teacher about this hurtful experience, she or he responds with a lesson on immigration in which students act out parts of the process. Additional text on most pages puts Nary's immigration story - including the prejudice he experiences in the U. S. - in the context of the immigration of millions from many countries, as well as including information about native people. It also describes the multicultural origins of many foods we eat and of some English words. Raising the question of who really is an American, given that most Americans are immigrants or descendants of immigrants, this story questions the assumptions that underlie prejudice. Simultaneously, it provides an empathic view of immigration. A teacher's guide is available.

Ages 8-11
Main character's cultural background: Asian American
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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