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, August 29, 2011

Who's There? by Carole Lexa Schaefer

Illustrated by Pierr Morgan.32 p., Viking, 2011.

When you hear a noise at night, it can be scary! The little bunny in this story hears all kinds of noises, and can't help imagining that they're being made by all kinds of terrible monsters. And "if that is true, what'll we do?" The bunny, BunBun (who can be interpreted as either male or female), gets comfort from a teddy bear: when the teddy bear sits quietly, in spite of the scary noises,BunBun can too. But the noises continue, and BunBun's imagination along with them. BunBun's last guess about the monster's identity - a "Two-Headed Whiney Snoop" - turns out to be close to accurate: it's BunBun's little brother, FonFon. FonFon's pull toy had been making the scary noises - and FonFon had come to see what was the matter because he'd heard thumps and bumps, which were the sounds of BunBun jumping into bed. FonFon is scared, and gets into bed with BunBun. The scary noises have an irresistible rhythm, the monster names and illustrations are wonderfully creative (just as children's imaginations are), and repetition is used with great charm and effectiveness. And there's a delicious linguistic surprise at the end, too. The richly colored illustrations on a night-black background show BunBun's emotions and perspective so clearly that we're right there in BunBun's experience. Bringing humor and delight to a frightening situation, without in the least discounting the child's fear, this story will help children understand how fear transforms ordinary situations into dangerous-seeming ones. If your child is already very anxious at bedtime, it might be best to read this story earlier in the day, at least at first.

Ages 3-7

Monday, August 22, 2011

A Mighty Fine Time Machine by Suzanne Bloom

32 p., Boyds Mills, 2009.

With imagination and persistence, all kinds of things are possible. Grant the aardvark and Antoine the armadillo have a do-it-yourself time machine, otherwise known as a cardboard box. With Samantha the anteater, they turn the box into a time machine and try to launch it, but it won't blast off. Samantha's persistence is important: she responds to this with, "Back to work, boys." The friends decide that maybe it isn't a "rockety" kind of time machine, but a rolling one. And they make it roll. When it falls over, Grant and Antoine are discouraged, but Sam encourages them to keep going. While they're distracted, she fixes the time machine, making it into a bookmobile - which, of course, allows the friends to go backward and forward in time through stories. With amusing, colorful illustrations, and positive messages about reading, this story supports kids in both imagination and perseverance.

Ages 4-7

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mama Loves Me From Away by Pat Brisson

Illustrated by Laurie Caple.32 p., Boyds Mills, 2004.

Having a parent in prison is an especially painful occasion for separation. In this tender, compassionate story, a little girl called Sugar has always loved her Mama's bedtime stories, especially the story of her own birth, on Mama's birthday. When Mama goes "away" (there's no doubt from the illustrations that Mama is in prison), Sugar stays with Grammy, and they visit Mama on Sundays. Each Sunday they reunite lovingly, but, as Sugar points out, "it's not the same as home." When their birthday is coming, Sugar makes a birthday card for Mama. Grammy warns her not to expect Mama ato give her a birthday present.. But Mama gives Sugar the best possible gift - a notebook in which she has written and ilustrated seven of her stories. She tells Sugar to read one story each night of the week at 8:00, and she will whisper the story to Sugar at the same time. Illustrated with paintings that beautifully convey both the little girl's emotions and the love between mother and daughter, this story shows children how stories can help maintain a bond in difficult times.

Ages 5-12

Monday, August 8, 2011

Animal Crackers: A Tender Book About Death and Funerals and Love by Bridget Marshall

13 p., Centering Corporation, 1998.

A girl recalls the fun she and her brother had with their Nanny, who used to hide candy and animal crackers for them at her house. Nanny declines cognitively and physically, and is taken to live in a nursing home. One day, when the girl has used her whole allowance to buy Nanny some animal crackers, she comes home from school to find out that Nanny has died. The girl feels angry and sad. At Nanny's funeral, her dad reads a poem that she wrote about Nanny at school. The girl and her brother help their dad give everyone present animal crackers, which facilitates their sharing happy memories of Nanny. The girl concludes that her heart is full of memories of Nanny. No illustrations. This story shows children a way to say goodbye to someone who has died and to keep their memories of the person with them.

Ages 4-7

Monday, August 1, 2011

Moony Luna/Luna, Lunita Lunera by Jorge Argueta

Illustrated by Elizabeth Gómez. 32 p., Children's, 2005.

Kids' feelings about starting school can fluctuate between excitement and fear. In this bilingual book, Luna is excited to start school for the first time. But on the first day, she wakes up frightened - what if there are monsters at school? She's reassured by her mommy's hugs and kisses and her own knowledge that she's "five years old and as big as the full moon," although her fears come back several times as she gets ready for school. When her mommy drops her off, she's frightened, and hides under a table. But her classmates encourage her to come out and play, and she begins to make friends. She draws, plays, and hears a story. When her parents pick her up, she tells them that there are no monsters at school after all. The colorful acrylic illustrations include crayon renderings of the monsters that Luna imagines. With Luna, children will find empathy for their shifting feelings and reassurance that they will be happy at school.

Ages 4-6
Main character's cultural background: Latina
Cultural context: Latino

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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