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, March 28, 2011

In My Heart by Molly Bang

32 p., Little, Brown, 2006.

Daily separations are more tolerable when we know that we're in the hearts of those we love. In this warm, caring story, a mother tells her child (who may be intended as a boy but can be seen as boy or girl) that when she's at work and the child is at school, she keeps the child securely in her heart, no matter what she's doing and no matter what the child's doing. When the mother misses the child, she just looks inside her heart and sees the child there, and is happy again. As the story ends, the mother is telling the child that s/he carries in his/her heart all the people (and pets) that s/he loves. The mixed-media illustrations are bursting with energy and affection. Addressing separation with optimism and empathy, this story gives children what they need for the times they can't be with those they love.

Ages 2-7
Main character's cultural background: ambiguous
Cultural context: multicultural

Monday, March 21, 2011

Owen and Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship by Isabella Hatkoff, Craig Hatkoff, and Paula Kahumbu

Illustrated by Peter Greste. 32 p., Scholastic, 2006.

If we keep our minds open, friendships can happen when we least expect them. In this remarkable true story, a baby hippopotamus named Owen and a 130-year-old tortoise named Mzee become the best of friends. Owen lived near a village in Kenya with his mother and their pod (group) of hippos, when a tsunami left him alone in the sea. With great difficulty, villagers and visitors rescued him, and he was taken to an animal sanctuary about 50 miles away. There he met Mzee, who was generally unfriendly to everyone except for the chief animal caretaker there. As soon as Owen arrived, he went right to Mzee and hid behind him, just as he might have hidden behind his mother. Mzee initially rejected this attention, but Owen persisted, and by the next morning, they were snuggling together. Soon, Owen began to eat, but only when he was with Mzee. The two animals became inseparable, playing affectionately together. Two years later, when this book was published, they remained the best of friends. Illustrated with color photographs, this story shows children that even in dire circumstances, completely unexpected friendships can form and can make all the difference in the world.

Ages 4-8
Main character's cultural background: non-human
Cultural context: multicultural:

Monday, March 14, 2011

It Hurts When I Poop! by Howard J. Bennett, M.D.

Illustrated by M. S. Weber. 32 p., Magination, 2007.

When you're afraid that it will hurt to poop, it becomes scary to sit on the potty. Ryan, a little boy who loves to play with dinosaur toys, has this experience, because he knows that big poops hurt coming out. As a result, he tries to hold poops in, and he gets frequent tummy aches. Ryan's pediatrician, Dr. Gold, tells him a story about a coyote who lets his house fill up with trash, until he decides to take control of the situation and be the boss of the trash. The coyote cleans up his house and feels happy and proud. Dr. Gold offers Ryan a program to help him become the boss of his body, just as the coyote became the boss of his house. She explains how poop is made and that "Letting the poop out stops the tummy aches and makes people feel better." She reassures Ryan that he isn't the only child to feel fearful about pooping. The program includes choosing foods that make poops softer, visualizing the process of pooping, "potty practice" (sitting on the toilet for a few minutes daily), getting a sticker each time you poop, and rewarding yourself for pooping regularly. The author, a pediatrician, includes a helpful afterword for parents that describes ways to use the program with their children. The softly-colored illustrations are both gentle and expressive (and include two showing the internal digestive system). Children will find empathy and optimism in Ryan's story.

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

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Bully Blockers Club by Teresa Bateman

Illustrated by Jackie Urbanovic. 32 p., Whitman, 2004.

When kids are bullied, they feel sad, frightened, angry, and helpless. Lotty the raccoon is excited to start a new school year, but it's immediately marred by Grant Grizzly, who sits behind her and says mean things, kicks her chair, and steals her things. Her brother and sister suggest some ways to cope, but these don't work. Lotty's parents and teacher become involved, and the story gives a clear message that telling an adult about bullying is not tattling. But teachers can't always be there when children are bullied. When Lotty realizes that Grant is bullying other kids, she forms a Bully Blockers club that responds assertively and collectively to Grant's behavior. This gets teachers' attention, and Grant can no longer get away with bullying. Lots of kids join the club, and they all look out for each other. Grant doesn't frighted Lotty so much any more - he's even helpful at times. The colorful illustrations skilfully depict children's feelings. This empowering story will be just what many children need.

Ages 6-9
Cultural context: non-human

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.

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