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, April 25, 2011

Terrific by Jon Agee

32 p., Michael diCapua, 2005.

When we interpret everything negatively, we often can't see obvious solutions to our problems. Such is the case for Eugene, a man who wins a trip to Bermuda. "Terrific," he responds - as he does, sarcastically, to most everything - he expects to get sunburned. What he doesn't expect is a shipwreck that washes him up on an island. On the island, he's surprised to meet a parrot, also stranded. Eugene is even more surprised when the parrot shows him how to build a boat, pushing aside Eugene's negative expectations at every turn. Eugene and the bird set sail in the boat and are rescued by the fishing boat on which the parrot had been traveling. The people on the boat describe the parrot as useless. When the fishing boat docks in Bermuda, Eugene thinks he has lost the parrot. But the parrot has decided to stay with Eugene. Eugene responds without sarcasm for the first time: "terrific!" Unlike others, he has learned to recognize and value his ability to cope positively, and he has a new friend. This story shows children that if you continue to cope even when you feel pessimistic, good things can happen.

Ages 4-6
Main character's cultural background: European American
Cultural context: European American

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Biggest Test in the Universe by Nancy Poydar

32 p., Holiday House, 2005.

Big tests can be scary for kids. Sam loves school and his teacher, but is worried about a test that "tested everything you ever learned." Although his teacher tells the kids that there's nothing to worry about, there are disturbing rumors about it: kids get thrown out of school if they don't pass, they get blisters on their brains, they need to have their arm in a sling afterward. Sam's family doesn't help: his cousin tells him it was easy, his mother and grandfather tell him ridiculous stories of how hard things were for them at school (and in spite of his worry, Sam has the presence of mind to refute them), and his father can't understand his worry. He feels sick on the day of the test. But he gets through it. And as soon as it's over, he and his classmates tell younger kids the same rumors they had heard. That night, Sam has a wonderful sense of relief - he has survived the test! With the author's delightful, expressive, unique illustrations, this story reassures kids that even when they're scared, they can get through a big test.

Ages 7-9
Main character's cultural background: European American
Cultural context: multicultural

Monday, April 11, 2011

Laney's Lost Momma by Diane Johnston Hamm

Illustrated by Sally G. Ward. 28 p., Whitman, 1991.

When Laney is lost in a department store, she finds her Momma by remembering what Momma has told her. Each one looks all over for the other, both worry. But they both remember that Momma has always told Laney that she should never leave a store without her, and Laney remembers that if she needs help, she should ask someone behind a counter. A salesperson pages "Laney's lost Momma" and they're happily reunited. Laney looks as if she's about 5 years old, although she tells the salesperson that her Momma's name is "Momma." This story shows a nice example of the value of keeping someone's words with you when they can't be with you in person.

Ages 4-6
Main character's cultural background: African American
Cultural context: multicultural

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Buffalo Storm by Katherine Applegate

Illustrated by Jan Ormerod. 32 p., Clarion, 2007.

The presence of a caring adult can be a powerful way to cope with fear, but what happens when that adult can't be with you? In this pioneer story, when Hallie's family prepares to move west to Oregon, she struggles with leaving her grandmother - especially since her grandmother shares, and so deeply understands, Hallie's fear of storms. Her grandmother encourages her to write letters to her about all that she sees, especially the herds of buffalo. She also gives her a special quilt and tells her she will always be with her. The first storm of the journey is terrifying. Hallie is thrown into a creek, and her father rescues her. Later in the journey, she finds herself alone with a buffalo calf that needs her help. Calling on her experience with colts and her memories of her grandmother, she helps the calf. Then, she hears a storm - but it's only the sound of a herd of buffalo running, just as her grandmother had predicted she'd see. As she gazes in awe, her fears dissolve. After the family reaches Oregon and Hallie helps her father build a cabin, her baby sister is born. She writes to her grandmother that she will protect the baby during storms just as her grandmother had protected her. She is truly carrying her grandmother with her. Illustrated in richly colored watercolor and pastel, this poetic story shows children how to keep a comforting presence with them in spite of distance.

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

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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