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, February 28, 2011

Zip, Zip Homework! by Nancy Poydar

32 p., Holiday House, 2008.

Even kids who are excited about being grown-up enough to do homework, and who plan exactly how they'll do it, might have difficulty at first in staying organized enough to complete it successfully. Violet knows that she'll have homework this year, and asks her mother for the backpack that's perfect for bringing homework home and back to school. It has lots of pockets, zippers, and snaps, and Violet is confident that it's her key to homework success. When her teacher, Ms. Patience, gives the class their first homework, Violet is thrilled. She feels very important to be doing homework - except that at home, she can't find it. She lies to her parents and friends about having done it. But Ms. Patience realizes that she hasn't done it, and gives her a special homework assignment that helps her learn to tell the truth - which (unlike her homework) Violet had never lost, and to her surprise, turns out to be more important than homework. Violet also comes up with a perfect solution to the problem of which backpack pocket to use. The brightly colored pencil and gouache illustrations are immediately engaging. Empathic and supportive, this story teaches children important lessons about both honesty and organization.

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

Monday, February 21, 2011

Louise's Gift by Irene Smalls

Illustrated by Colin Bootman. 32 p., Little, Brown, 1996.

Each child in Louise's family receives a symbolic gift from Nana. For example, one child receives a penny, and Nana tells her she will be rich, both in the sense of having a lot of money and in a spiritual sense. Louise is disappointed in her gift, a blank piece of paper. Nana tells Louise that she can put whatever she wants to on the paper. But Louise feels that the gift means that she isn't special. After solving several problems creatively, she learns that her gift is creativity, and values this in herself. This story shows children that their strengths may not be obvious, but they are still valuable.

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

Monday, February 14, 2011

Simon and Molly Plus Hester by Lisa Jahn-Clough

32 p., Houghton Mifflin, 2001.

Simon and Molly are best friends, and have special ways of doing things. When Hester begins to play with them, Simon feels left out, and worries that Molly likes Hester better than him. He's relieved when he overhears Molly tell Hester that he is her best friend. The three children find that there's a lot they can appreciate about and learn from one another, and are happy to be friends. This playfully-illustrated story offers children reassurance that they're still special to their friends even when new friends are involved. For another story about adding a third friend, see Chester's Way).

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

Monday, February 7, 2011

Keeping a Secret: A Story About Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis by Elizabeth Murphy-Melas

Illustrated by April Hartmann. 32 p., Health Press, 2001.

Jennifer discovers that she has juvenile rheumatoid arthritis after severe knee pain interferes with her soccer game. She is sad to have to give up soccer and jumping rope. Her rheumatologist encourages her to focus on what she can still do (bicycling, swimming, walking), and she's eventually able to do this, and even decides to join a swim team. Jennifer feels ashamed of her arthritis, and decides not to tell her friends at first because she's afraid they'll think she's strange. Her parents and teacher respect this decision, but after a while, it becomes too hard to keep up the pretense of a sprained knee. When she invites four friends to a sleepover and tells them, everyone is relieved, and no one rejects her. In spite of its limitations (for example, Jennifer's rheumatologist, although trying to be kind, seems to push away her sadness; and Jennifer worries about being thought to be "like an old lady," as if that were something bad to be), this book offers empathy to children who have rheumatoid arthritis, and Jennifer is a good role model for moving from sadness, frustration, and shame to positive activity and openness.

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