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, October 28, 2013

Humphrey's Bear by Jan Wahl

Illustrated by William Joyce. 32 p., Holt, 1987. Humphrey sleeps with a bear who wears a sailor suit. The bear had belonged to his father when he was a child. Humphrey overhears his father questioning whether he's too old to sleep with the bear. He snuggles the bear close, goes to sleep, and dreams a sailing adventure with the bear. He wakes up yelling for the bear. His father hands it to him, remembering the sailing dreams he had as a child with the bear. Although he doesn't say so, it's clear that it's OK with him now that Humphrey sleeps with the bear. This story gives children encouragement to accept their needs to keep a comforting object, even if that seems immature to others. Ages 4-7

Monday, October 21, 2013

Mrs. Watson Wants Your Teeth by Alison McGhee

Illustrated by Harry Bliss. 40 p., Harcourt, 2004. Starting first grade can be scary, and it often coincide with losing a tooth. In this story, a little girl is frightened when she starts first grade - she has a loose tooth, and a second-grader has told her that the very innocuous-looking first-grade teacher, Mrs. Watson, is really an alien who steals her students' baby teeth. She decides that the only way to get through first grade is to keep her mouth closed. This isn't easy, since although she misses her kindergarten teacher, she's excited to try first-grade activities. When Mrs. Watson asks if anyone has a loose tooth, another child says he does. The girl tries to warn him about Mrs. Watson's propensity to steal teeth, and in the process, her loose tooth falls out. She discovers that not only does Mrs. Watson not steal kids' teeth, but also, she gives candy to kids who lose them. On the bus on the way home that day, she's able to let the second-grader know that she's onto her. Expressively illustrated in ink and watercolor, this story humorously addresses kids' fears about both first grade and losing a tooth at school. Ages 6-7

Monday, October 14, 2013

Grandpa's Music by Alison Acheson

Illustrated by Bill Farnsworth. 32 p., Whitman, 2009. Alzheimer's disease can challenge children to find new ways to connect with people they've always known. As this story begins, Callie's Grandpa, who has Alzheimer's disease, moves into her home. Callie participates in his care, along with her parents and older brother, in very age-appropriate ways: she not only commits to playiing catch with Grandpa and helping him remember his hat, but also, she steps in to welcome him in special ways, inviting him into a new role in the family that helps him to structure his days, and especially, making music with him. As time goes on, he forgets how to do several things, but he always remembers how to play the piano, and he and Callie continue to sing together. When he forgets song lyrics, Callie encourages him to invent new ones with her, and he's happy. Toward the end of the story, he moves into a nursing home, and brings with him his ability to play music, his enjoyment of making up lyrics, and his connection with Callie. Illustrated with oil paintings, this story offers hope of connection in spite of the helplessness than children can feel when a relative has dementia. Ages 6-9

Monday, October 7, 2013

Houndsley and Catina by James Howe

Illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay. 36 p., Candlewick, 2006. Friendship can help us to discover what's really important to us. In this story, Houndsley is a dog who enjoys cooking. Catina, his best friend, is a cat who wants to be a famous writer. Unfortunately, she's also a terrible writer, and while Houndsley tries to be supportive, he knows this, and worries about her. Houndsley is an excellent and creative cook. Catina encourages him to enter a cooking contest, telling him that he has to share his talent with the world. But when he does, he gets so flummoxed that he cooks terribly, and is profoundly embarrassed. When they talk about this later, Houndsley wisely remarks, "Trying to be the best made me nervous, and I did not have fun. If you do not have fun doing something you like to do, what is the point?" There's an important lesson here for Catina, who realizes that she doesn't like to write. But she wants to be good at something. Houndsley tells her that she's already a good friend, and she realizes that this is what's really important to her. With its charming illustrations in watercolor, pencil, and collage, this story offers children accessible insights into both self and relationships. Ages 5-7

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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