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 13, 2014

Healing Stories blog news

"Story of the week" posts have been appearing weekly for over eight years now, since September 2006, when Healing Stories was published. New posts will now be on hiatus for an undetermined time. I may perhaps post when I happen to run across a book that seems important to write about, but at least for a while, I won't be posting weekly. This blog will remain online so that the posts are available to you as a resource. Wishing you and the children in your life healing in the stories you read and in the experiences you live.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Big Sister Now: A Story About Me and our New Baby by Annette Sheldon

Illustrated by Karen Maizel. 32 p., Magination, 2006. When there's a new baby at home, you don't get to be the baby any more. At first, Kate doesn't like this. It feels confusing, and she worries that the adults have forgotten about her. Not only that, but when she needs something, she has to wait until baby Daniel's needs are met first. But she does get what she needs eventually, and her Mommy and Daddy are empathic. Kate starts to understand that although she doesn't like not being the baby any more, she does like feeling big. She begins to help take care of Daniel. Her wise Grandma, who up until now seemed only to be paying attention to Daniel, asks Kate to help her bake cookies - because Kate is big enough. This story includes an afterword for parents about how to help children adjust to a new baby. The illustrations convey emotion expressively. With Kate, children will learn that being big can still be as "warm and safe and lovey" as being the baby was. Ages 2-6

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Sea Serpent and Me by Dashka Slater

Illustrated by Catia Chien. 38 p., Houghton Mifflin, 2008. Sometimes being a friend means letting go. A little girl finds a beautiful sea serpent in her bathtub. They play together in the bath, and when it isn't bath time, she keeps him in a fish tank. The girl asks the serpent whether he misses the sea, and he says he does. In response, she promises to take him back, but the next couple of days are rainy, and she doesn't think that's good beach weather. In the meantime, the serpent is growing rapidly, and although she has mixed feelings about it, the girl realizes that if he grows any larger, she won't be able to take him home to the sea. So they go to the beach in spite of the rain. Knowing that people and serpents have different needs, and so need different homes, the girl says goodbye to the serpent. It's hard for both of them, but they take the time to share memories of their time together, the girl gives the serpent lots of reassurance about his life in the sea. When she's gone home, the girl finds comfort in her memories of the sea serpent. The story is illustrated with charcoals and semi-transparent washes of acrylic in a palette of greens and blues. Children will understand that there are times when it's best for both of you to put your friend's needs first, and that although this can be painful, it's bearable. Ages 4-8

Monday, September 22, 2014

Always My Grandpa by Linda Scacco

Illustrated by Nicole Wong. 48 p., Magination, 2007. When someone close to a child has Alzheimer's disease, the child may experience disbelief, worry, confusion, anger, and embarrassment. Such is the case for Daniel, who has always enjoyed spending the summers with Grandpa at the shore. On their way to a visit with Grandpa, Daniel's mother explains that he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, and Daniel can't believe that things will be different - and at first, it seems as if they aren't. Grandpa still tells the same stories that Daniel has always loved, and they play catch as they always have. But soon it becomes clear that Grandpa has difficulty keeping track of his belongings, his memories, and his words. During a lucid moment, he tells Daniel that he's sorry this is happening, and even when he behaves in strange or confusing ways, he still loves Daniel. One day, after a walk on the beach during Grandpa's nap, Daniel and Mom return to his house to find a burning pan on the stove. Grandpa doesn't know who they are, which frightens Daniel. But they remind him of who they are, and he seems reassured. Daniel and Mom talk about their feelings, and he's able to verbalize some of his biggest fears: is Grandpa going to die? Are his parents? Mom responds with honesty and caring, and Daniel feels better. But then, when Daniel plays catch with a friend whom Grandpa has known for a long time, Grandpa asks who the friend is - three times during a short period. Embarrassed, Daniel asks his friend to play with him somewhere else, and then gets angry at his friend. His mother explains that Grandpa's behavior can be confusing to others, and she acknowledges Daniel's feelings. They agree to talk with the friend and his mother about Grandpa's diagnosis. For the rest of the summer, some days are better than others. Daniel seems discouraged about the changes in Grandpa - he's truly experienced them now. At the end of the story, Grandpa is coming to live with Daniel and his family. Having said at the beginning of the story that he won't allow Grandpa to forget him and Mom, on the way home, he tells Grandpa the stories that Grandpa has told him. Illustrated in ink and warm-toned watercolors, this story shows kids what Alzheimer's disease is like and offers them empathy and reassurance. Ages 6-10

Monday, September 15, 2014

The OK Book by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld. 40 p., HarperCollins, 2007. In this story, it's OK to be just OK at things. The main character is a stick figure consisting of the letters OK, drawn sideways. The character says, "I like to try a lot of different things. I'm not great at all of them, but I enjoy them just the same." The character is "OK" at many things, from roasting marshmallows to playing baseball, climbing to flying a kite. The character is definitely no better than "OK" at sharing.or flipping pancakes. But that's OK. At the end of the story, the character says, "One day, I'll grow up to be really excellent at something. I don't know what it is yet ... but I sure am having fun figuring it out." Children receive an important message about attending to their internal reactions to activities rather than focusing all their attention on being great at them. This is especially helpful for children who tend to be perfectionistic. Ages 4-7

Monday, September 8, 2014

Won't You Be My Hugaroo? by Joanne Ryder

Illustrated by Melissa Sweet. 36 p., Harcourt, 2006. There are lots of kind of hugs, from twirly hugs and tickle hugs, to cheer-up hugs and calming hugs, to friendly hugs and good-job hugs, to goodbye hugs and goodnight hugs. This book is an affectionate, cheerful, rhyming catalogue of these and others, with ink and watercolor illustrations of zebra, pig, and bunny friends and families. It also shows children a way to have a range of their needs happily met. Ages 2-5

Monday, September 1, 2014

A Box of Friends by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Illustrated by Mary Whyte. 32 p., McGraw Hill/Gingham Dog, 2003. When you move to a new home, you might think you have no friends there. Annie feels so alone at her new house that she wants to go back to the old, familiar one. When she tells her grandma that she has no friends in the new place, Grandma replies that everyone has a box of friends. She shows Annie hers. In the box are mementos of the special friendships in Grandma's life. Grandma is even a friend to herself. Annie wants to make her own box of friends, and Grandma helps her. When Annie is invited to another girl's birthday party, and is told that she can bring a friend, she brings Grandma. We understand that Annie has learned that she's brought friends with her to her new home - both in the connections that remain even when friends are far away, and in the people (and dog) whom she'd forgotten to think of as friends. Illustrated with wistful, light-washed watercolors, this story offers a way to move through the losses that come with a move. Ages 5-8

Monday, August 25, 2014

My Name is Yoon by Helen Recorvits

Illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska. 32 p., Farrar/Frances Foster, 2003. When children move to a new country, they may feel alone and estranged. Yoon's family moves to the United States from Korea. Her father tells her that she has to learn how to write her name using the Western alphabet. Yoon doesn't like this - she likes it in Korean, the way it's always been. She likes the connection of that written form with her name's meaning, Shining Wisdom. When Yoon starts school, her teacher's first lesson is about a cat. She doesn't want to write "Yoon" on her paper, so she writes "CAT." On another day, she writes "BIRD" instead, and on another day, "CUPCAKE." Each time, the word is what she wants to be, in some way. As this is happening, she is beginning to make friends, her teacher is growing to like her, and she's learning things at school. When her mother expresses pride in this, Yoon can consider the possibility that America could be a good home for her. "Maybe different is good, too." Now she's willing to write "YOON" in English, and feels confident that it still means Shining Wisdom when written that way. Illustrated with expressive, light-filled paintings, this story helps children manage the complex feelings that immigration brings. Ages 4-7

Monday, August 18, 2014

Ish by Peter H. Reynolds

32 p., Candlewick, 2004. Criticism by others can lead to painful self-criticism and shutting down. Ramon loves to draw, but when his brother laughs at him, and hints that his drawings don't look like what he means them to look like, he questions himself. He can't make his drawings look "right." Finally, he stops drawing altogether. Then he discovers that his sister, Marisol, has been rescuing his discarded drawings and hanging them on her walls. The one that his brother had laughed at is one of Marisol's favorites. When Ramon says that it doesn't look like a vase of flowers, Marisol replies that it looks "vase-ish." As he looks at his drawings on her walls, he realizes that they really do look "ish", and gives himself permission to think and draw "ish-ly." He even begins to write "ish-ly." He lives "ishfully ever after." With expressive, charming, yet somehow scribbly-looking, illustrations rendered in ink, watercolors, and tea, this story shows children how to allow themselves to create from who they are, rather than what they think (or they think others think) they should be. Ages 4-9

Monday, August 11, 2014

Little Pea by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Illustrated by Jen Corace. 32 p., Chronicle, 2005. Being fussy about what you eat can be a matter of perspective. Little Pea is a happy little pea who likes to play with his friends, roughhouse with his father, and listen to his mother's stories. But he hates to eat his dinner. Peas have to eat candy for dinner every night, and Little Pea thinks it tastes awful. Mama Pea and Papa Pea tell him that he has to eat at least five pieces of candy to be allowed to have dessert. So, reluctantly, he eats them, expressing disgust after each one. His promised dessert? Spinach - his favorite! With its simple, cheerful, ink and watercolor illustrations, this story helps children to have a sense of humor about picky eating - and who knows, maybe a new perspective, too. Ages 4-8

Monday, August 4, 2014

Begin at the Beginning by Amy Schwartz

34 p., HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen, 2005. When you expect too much of yourself, it's hard to do anything at all. Sara learns this when she's assigned to paint a picture on behalf of her class. She's had a bad day at school, and is discouraged to begin with. At first, she thinks she'll paint a picture of the tree outside her window, but then she decides that she has to come up with a "very important" subject for this painting. After a large after-school snack, she decides to paint the entire earth, and in fact, the entire universe. But she finds herself unable to begin. It goes on this way until dinner time, when her whole family has ideas about how she should do it, which they express in a distressing cacophony. After dinner, Sara explains to her mother that she was going to paint the entire universe, but she can't do it. Her mother encourages her to begin at the beginning, and reminds her that the universe is made of people just like them, and rooms and houses like theirs. Sara realizes that she really can begin with the tree outside her window, and that that's manageable for her. She finally begins to paint. With simple, expressive, charming illustrations in a gentle color palette, this story shows children how to give themselves permission to let go of unrealistic expectations - an important lesson for so many children to learn. Ages 5-8

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Deaf Musicians by Pete Seeger and Paul DuBois Jacobs

Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. 32 p., Putnam, 2006. Sometimes our assumptions about disabilities turn out to be inaccurate. Such is the case for Lee, a jazz pianist who loses his hearing. The band leader fires him, asking, "Who will listen to a deaf musician?" Discouraged, Lee enrolls in a school for the deaf, thinking he can learn a new skill. He meets a man there, a saxophonist named Max, who questions his assumption that he can't play music any more. The two have long sign-language conversations about music, and eventually try playing a duet. They find that they play well together. Playing in the subway, they draw the attention of Rose, a bass player who signs, and whom they invite to join them. When they decide that they need a singer, Rose invites her friend, Ellie, a sign-language interpreter. The quartet plays daily in the subway, and Lee realizes that he's playing for his largest audiences ever. When his former band leader shows up with a compliment, Lee reminds him of his question - and Lee has an upbeat answer for it. An afterword celebrates the meaning of music that's beyond sound. With colorful illustrations that match the jazz theme, this story encourages children with and without disabilities to question their assumptions in positive ways. Ages 4-8

Monday, July 21, 2014

Anna's Corn by Barbara Santucci

Illustrated by Lloyd Bloom. 32 p., Eerdmans, 2002. Shared experience can be both a metaphor for loss and a way to move through the loss. in this story, set in the context of a farming family, Anna's Grandpa teaches her about the music that the corn makes in the fields - music that sounds to Anna just like Grandpa. Almost as if to commemorate the experience, he gives her kernels of corn to plant the next year. During the winter, Grandpa dies, and Anna misses him terribly. The corn seeds feel hard, just as she feels hard inside. She tells her mother that she doesn't plant them because she likes them as they am, and besides, if she buries them, like Grandpa, they'll be gone forever. But her mother reminds her that she won't hear the music in them unless she plants them. With this encouragement, she eventually does. True to her mother's word, the corn grows, and Anna hears its music. Anna saves some of these seeds to plant the following year. This story is illustrated with gently-colored pencil and pastel drawings. Rich in metaphor, it offers both empathy and hope to children who have lost someone close. Ages 4-9

Monday, July 14, 2014

I Love You Through and Through by Bernadette Rossetti-Shustak

Illustrated by Caroline Jayne Church. 24p., Scholastic, 2005. Here's a rhyming story that communicates being fully loved. The narrator loves everything about the character, inside and out, in all his moods, always. Cheerfully illustrated, this story celebrates the unconditional acceptance that parents and other special people feel for children. Ages 0-3

Monday, July 7, 2014

Mommy in My Pocket by Carol Hunt Senderak

Illustrated by Hiroe Nakata.32 p., Hyperion, 2006. When children go to school, they might miss their parents. In this sweet story, a little bunny imagines that she'll miss her Mommy when school starts. Although she could bring Mommy's picture with her, what she really wishes for - and the story elaborates on - is that Mommy would be tiny enough to fit in her pocket, so she could keep her there all day at school, next to her heart. She imagines the whole day like this. But she knows that even though that won't happen, she'll be all right at school, "because the love in Mommy's hug and kiss ... will stay with me all day!" This rhyming story is illustrated with tenderly colored, yet energetic watercolors. It offers empathy with children's wishes, along with reassurance that they can tolerate ordinary separations from parents. Ages 2-6

Monday, June 30, 2014

Not A Box by Andrea Portis

32 p., HarperCollins, 2007. With imagination, a box can be almost anything. In this story, an unseen character who doesn't understand this questions a little rabbit, who is making believe the box is a car, a mountain, a burning building, and many other things. The unseen character keeps asking about the box, and the rabbit answers that it's not a box. At the end, when asked, "Well, what is it then?" the rabbit answers, "It's my Not-a-Box!" Illustrated with line drawings that show the "real" things in black and the "imagined" ones in red, this story encourages transformation through imagination. Ages 2-6

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Enchanted Wood by Ruth Sanderson

32 p., Little, Brown+, 19991. Resolution of grief can be a difficult journey. In this original fairy tale, when the queen dies, the king's grief is so vast that the entire land experiences years of drought. A legend says that finding the Heart of the World, which is in the Enchanted Wood, will allow a man to achieve his purpose, and the king realizes that ending the drought is just such a purpose. The two oldest princes, both full of arrogance, first seek the Heart of the World. The wise woman who guards the gates of the Enchanted Wood warns them to stay on on the path, but each is distracted - the oldest by his love of hunting, and the second by his love of fighting. The youngest prince, Galen, goes to the wood, with not only a passion to save his kingdom (and his brothers), but also, openness and humility. As a result of the latter attributes, he acquires the help of the gatekeeper's daughter, Rose, who accompanies him on his journey. Seeing his brothers struggling, Galen is sorely tempted to leave the path, but he's able to stay on it when Rose warns him that he'll become enchanted if he leaves it. When, with her help, he understands that he'd wanted to leave the path because he loves his brothers, yet he's staying true to his purpose of saving the kingdom, the forest becomes much less forbidding. They reach the Heart of the World, where there is a magical tree and a spring. Drinking from the spring, Galen wishes for a permanent end to the drought. It immediately begins to rain. The wood is no longer enchanted, freeing Rose's family from generations of guarding its gate. Galen's brothers greet him warmly and with new humility, and the king holds a great feast. When Galen becomes king, he and Rose rule the kingdom with wisdom and joy. Illustrated with beautifully atmospheric oil paintings, this story illustrates the roles of compassion and connection in recovery from grief. Ages 7-10

Monday, June 16, 2014

Let's Talk About It: Extraordinary Friends by Fred Rogers

Illustrated by Jim Judkis.32 p., Penguin Putnam, 2000. When encountering a person with a disability is new to you, you might feel curious, surprised, or even scared. Mr. Rogers acknowledges all these feelings in this book about understanding disability in particular, and difference in general. He encourages children to talk about their concerns with adults, and suggests that able-bodied children make friends with disabled ones in the same way as with other people: by introducing themselves. In the context of acknowledging universal human experiences such as needing friendship and love, he educates children about ways to address differences. For example, he advises able-bodied children to ask before helping a disabled child, reminding them that they, too, sometimes want help, and sometimes not. Wisely, he remarks that as we get to know people, we learn much about them that isn't obvious from first impressions, and increase our self-knowledge as well. Illustrated wtih color photographs of children who are introduced on the first page, this book offers gentle, supportive, honest encouragement for understanding and looking beyond disability. Ages 3-6

Monday, June 9, 2014

Mona: The Monster Girl by Moritz Petz

Translated by J. Alison James. Illustrated by Maja Dusíková. 32 p., North-South, 2004. When you're a monster, you might be afraid of the children that could be hiding under the bed. Such is the case for green, sharp-toothed, claw-footed Mona, who worries about going to sleep even though her mother reassures her that there's no such thing as children. But in fact, two children do show up in her attic after she's gone to bed. At first, Mona is terrifed of the children, and of course, they're terrifed of her. One child, Lenny, shoots Mona with a water pistol, and he and Maria chase Mona. But Maria realizes that Mona is crying, and the children apologize to her. And they make friends. They find that they envy each other's lives - Mona's mother doesn't like her to be clean or to pick up her room. They teach each other their favorite games. And they discover that the Mona's mother can't see the children, and the children's mother can't see Mona. When Mona finally goes back to bed, she dreams of friendly children who want to play. This isn't the first story of a monster who is afraid of children at bedtime (for example, see The Something by Natalie Babbitt, 1970, Clyde Monster by Robert L. Crowe, 1976, and the hilarious No Such Thing by Jackie Koller French, 1997) but this one is lovely and made me laugh. Illustrated with whimsical watercolor paintings, this story offers children humor and a new perspective to help dispel their fears. Ages 3-6

Monday, June 2, 2014

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell

Illustrated by Henry Cole.32 p., Simon & Shuster, 2005. Children in two-father families may feel that their family is "different." In the context of describing the animal families at the Central Park Zoo in New York City, this sweet story, which recounts actual events, introduces the penguins, Roy and Silo. Roy and Silo are "a little bit different" from the other penguin couples because they were both boys. A devoted couple, they build a nest together, and Roy finds what he thinks is an egg. It's only a stone, but the two penguins take turns sitting on it as if to hatch it. Of course, no baby hatches. But a kind zookeeper realizes that they're in love and want a baby, so he puts an egg in the nest. They take care of the egg very carefully until their baby, Tango, hatches. The two daddy penguins care lovingly for her in the same ways that the other penguin parents care for their babies. Zoo visitors cheer for Tango. With its gentle, expressive watercolor illustrations, this story acknowledges that two-father families may be atypical in some ways, but not in the essential ones: their care and love for their children. Ages 3-8

Monday, May 26, 2014

Good-Bye, 382 Shin Dang Dong by Frances Park and Ginger Park

Illustrated by Yangsook Choi.32 p., National Geographic Society, 2002. It's hard to say goodbye when you move to another country. Jangmi doesn't want to move from Korea to the United States. She'll miss her best friend, Kisuni, and her home. Even the seasons and the food will be different. Her parents describe their new house and other things about America, and reassure her that she'll make new friends, but Jangmi still doesn't want to go. On their last day, friends and relatives come for a goodbye lunch, and Jangmi wants to keep these moments with her forever. She talks with Kisuni about how when one is awake, the other will be sleeping. We see that she's beginning to adjust when Kisuni comments, "'At least we'll always know what the other one is doing.'" As the family rides to the airport, Jangmi cries. She says goodbye to her old house many times. Her parents offer her the possibility of adopting Rose (the translation of Jangmi) as her American name, but Jangmi decides to keep her name exactly as it is. When the family finally arrives at their new home in Massachusetts, everything looks strange to Jangmi, yet it's all as her parents have described. Soon after the movers come, neighbors arrive, bringing food. Among them is Mary, who is Jangmi's age, and becomes her first friend in America. Jangmi is able to see that Mary is like Kisuni in some ways. As the story ends, Jangmi is writing to Kisuni, knowing that she is sleeping at that moment, and knowing the world that she lives in. Based on an event in the life of the authors' older sister, this story is illustrated with glowing, expressive oil paintings. It offers empathy and hope to children facing a move to another country. Ages 4-8

Monday, May 19, 2014

The School Is Not White! by Doreen Rappaport

Illustrated by Curtis James.40 p., Jump At The Sun, 2005. Although the United States Supreme Court declared school segregation illegal in 1954, it still existed in the South in 1965. This book tells the true story of the profoundly courageous family of Mae Bertha and Matthew Carter, who were African American and sent their seven school-age children to a “white” school. Before school even begins, people shoot at their house with rifles. The owner of the plantation where Matthew and Mae Bertha work as sharecroppers fires and evicts them when they refuse to withdraw the children from the “white” school. Other children at the school harass them constantly, year after year, and teachers and administrators are verbally abusive also. But Mae Bertha and Matthew want a better future for their children than sharecropping, and they believe passionately in the importance of education in attaining this. So they continue to encourage their children, who are in great pain from this experience. Eventually, other African American children enroll in the “white” schools. One afterword explains how the story came to be written, and another summarizes the now-grown children’s accomplishments, quoting their dreams for their own children. Suggested readings are also given. The Carter family’s story is illustrated with beautiful, somber oil paintings. Deeply moving, this story offers inspiration for courage and for working to realize equality. Ages 7-11

Monday, May 12, 2014

We Belong Together: A Book About Adoption and Families by Todd Parr

32 p., Little, Brown, 2007. There are so many reasons that families belong together. This story names some of them, from “you needed a home and I had one to share,” to “you needed someone to say ‘I love you’ and we had love to give.” The only time the word adoption is mentioned is in the subtitle. An author’s note suggests that families change the pronouns in the text to fit their own families, and the pictures suggest single-mom, single-dad, mom-and-dad, two-mom, and two-dad families that are yellow, blue, orange, green, red, or purple. An afterword for kids explains that love makes a family. With its energetic, childlike illustrations, this book conveys a positive sense of families fitting together perfectly. Ages 2-6

Monday, May 5, 2014

Hurricane Wolf by Diane Paterson

32 p., Whitman, 2006. A hurricane is scary, but with help from their parents, children can cope. Noah copes with a hurricane by drawing, verbalizing his feelings (likening the hurricane to a big, bad wolf, shouting at it to go away), helping his parents prepare their house, asking them for information, tracking the hurricane with his parents on the computer and TV, and turning his flashlight on sometimes to reassure his cat and dog. The story shows the family’s preparations and follows the hurricane’s progress over the house. Noah’s parents give helpful, reassuring, age-appropriate answers to his questions; for example, when he asks where birds go during hurricanes, his mother replies, “’They know what to do. Some find safe spots nearby and some fly far away.’”Afterward, Mom reassures Noah that the trees and plants that were damaged will grow back, and they can fix other things. As the story ends, Noah is helping to restore the house to its pre-hurricane state. An informational afterword gives facts about hurricanes and explains how to be safe. Illustrated with vibrant, expressive watercolors, this story offers information, reassurance, and ways to cope with this disaster. Ages 5-9

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Cardboard Piano by Lynne Rae Perkins

32 p., Greenwillow, 2008. Sometimes it's hard to accept differences between friends even when you know that it's OK to have them. Debbie and Tina, who are best friends, are alike in some ways and not in others, and "mostly it evened out." But when Debbie starts taking piano lessons and Tina doesn't, this feels like a big difference. Tina expresses a wish to play the piano, but she doesn't have one to practice on, and doesn't want to practice on Debbie's. Debbie gets the idea to make her a cardboard practice piano. With this piano, you have to hear the music in your mind. Debbie gives the piano to Tina, and dreams about the fun they'll have playing together. She even gives Tina lessons. But Tina finds that she doesn't really like playing the piano, at least this way. Debbie is crushed. She tries out different explanations for her disappointment, but none of them seem to work. Then she tries actually playing the cardboard piano, and she understands Tina's experience - she doesn't hear the music in her mind, and so it isn't fun. Instead, she and Tina bake cookies together, and they bring some to their neighbor, Mr. K. Mr. K teaches them a dance from the country where he was born - a dance that people dance long into the night. Debbie is excited about the three of them dancing together like that. Now she has something that she and Tina can enjoy together again. This book is illustrated with colorful, vibrant, ink and watercolor paintings that feel very true to childhood experience, and comes with a DVD in which the author narrates an animated version. The story supports children in sustaining their friendships while navigating their differences. Ages 4-7

Monday, April 21, 2014

Feeling Better: A Kid's Book About Therapy by Rachel Rashkin

Illustrated by Bonnie Adamson.48 p., Magination, 2007. When kids start therapy, they have lots of questions. This story, in the format of a journal by 12-year-old Maya, helps answer them. Maya explains that she no longer has fun with her friends or doing things that she used to enjoy, has difficulty paying attention in class, often feels irritable, and gets a lot of stomach aches and headaches. She wants to be alone - but she doesn't. Maya's father explains to her that sometimes kids don't know how to express difficult feelings, so they try to forget them, and when that happens, they act and feel the ways Maya has been acting and feeling. He tells her that he had struggles like this as a child, but didn't learn to understand them until he was an adult - with the help of a therapist. And he offers Maya the option of meeting with a therapist. Both nervous and relieved, Maya meets with Dr. Madison. She explains what therapy is like, and that "if you need help from a therapist, it doesn't mean you are bad or weak or dumb. It means you're smart because you want to get better." Maya finds that Dr. Madison is nice, funny, accepting, and genuinely interested in her. She discovers that it's OK to feel all kinds of feelings during the sessions. Dr. Madison explains that the therapy is confidential, unless it becomes necessary to talk to others to keep Maya safe. She offers the option of playing games or making art, and Maya notices that making art is especially helpful in understanding her feelings, which helps her feel better. At the same time, it's not easy to get used to therapy, and sometimes Maya doesn't feel like going to her sessions. But her parents remind her that each time she goes, she's getting better. With continued work, Maya comes to realize that at least some of her sadness is about her mother being away on more business trips than before. Her mother helps her manage that with special times before and after the trips, and more communication while she's away. After nearly a year, Maya feels proud that she's worked through her "big" feelings, feels more like herself, and is almost ready to end her therapy. Illustrated with line drawings, this story offers children a helpful, hopeul introduction to therapy. Ages 8-14

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Bad-News Report Card by Nancy Poydar

32 p., Holiday House, 2009. Report cards can be a source of worry for children. At first, Isabel confidently expects an excellent report card. But at the same time, we can tell that she's preoccupied: she makes a report card for her cat, and talks about report cards with a classmate when she is supposed to be listening to her teacher. When her teacher redirects her, she forgets to write her name on her paper. When she realizes this, she tries to slip her paper out of the teacher's pile to write her name on it. Now she's made three mistakes, and she's sure that her report card is going to be terrible. So she sticks it behind the seat of the school bus. Her parents notice her distress, and she explains this by saying that her report card disappeared. Her papa writes her teacher a note about this, but Isabel sticks that behind the school bus seat too. Eventually, she decides she is going to give the report card to her parents and the note to her teacher - but they've disappeared from the bus. The principal has them - and it turns out that Isabel's report card is just fine, and acknowledges her excellent imagination. With Nancy Poydar's charming, expressive gouache and pencil illustrations, and a clear sense that the adult characters are kind and caring, this story reassures children who worry about their report cards. Ages 6-9

Monday, April 7, 2014

Megan's Birthday Tree: A Story About Open Adoption by Laurie Lears

Illustrated by Bill Farnsworth. 32 p., Whitman, 2005. In an open adoption, children may explicitly maintain connection with their birth parent(s).. For Megan, one form this connection takes is a tree in her birth mother, Kendra's, yard when Megan was born. Kendra tells Megan that the tree reminds her of her, and every year on Megan's birthday, she sends her a photo of the tree. When Kendra announces plans to move, Megan worries that she won't have the tree in her new home, and so she might forget Megan. She tries to grow a tree for Kendra, but that doesn't work. So she saves all her money to buy Kendra a tree, even earning some by doing extra chores at home. But she doesn't have enough money to buy a tree, and declines her father's financial help, because she wants to do this on her own. Her next plan is to dig up a little tree in the yard to give to Kendra. As she's doing this, Kendra arrives for a visit. She explains to Megan that she doesn't need anything to help her remember her, and that she always will. Megan understands this. But it also turns out that Kendra has dug up the original birthday tree from her yard to take to her new house. Megan feels lucky to be part of this family. Illustrated with wistful oil paintings, this story celebrates the connections of adopted children with both their parents and their birth parents. Ages 6-9

Monday, March 31, 2014

Not a Stick by Antoinette Portis

32 p., HarperCollins, 2008. Imagination can take the form of seeing something new in an ordinary object. In this story, a little pig's stick becomes a fishing pole, a paintbrush, a horse, even a sword to fight a dragon. An unseen observer keeps mentioning "that stick," and each time, the little pig responds that it isn't a stick. Finally, the observer asks, "Then what is it?" The little pig replies, "It's my Not-a-Stick!" It can be anything the pig's imagination makes it. Illustrated with simple drawings, this story supports children's use of imagination to transform their experience. Ages 2-6

Monday, March 24, 2014

Just Kidding by Trudy Ludwig

Illustrated by Adam Gustavson. 32 p., Tricycle, 2006. Bullying can take the form of cruelty that the person describes as a joke. Such is the case for D .J., when Vince decides that the loser of "rock, paper, scissors" gets D. J. on his team. When D. J. leaves, Vince calls after him, "Can't you take a joke?" This isn't the first time that Vince has been mean to D. J.. D. J.'s Dad and brother teach him a game that helps him learn how to respond to being picked on, without being mean. The next day, D. J. uses what he's learned to support his friend, Brian, when Vince picks on Brian. In spite of D. J.'s positive responses, Vince keeps behaving obnoxiously, so D. J. and Dad meet with D. J.'s teacher. She encourages D. J. to tell her if Vince picks on him, and explains the difference between this and tattling. Eventually, Vince stops annoying him. Meanwhile, D. J. spends his time with friends who know how to joke. This book includes a foreword for adults that describes ways to support children, along with resources for children and adults, an afterword about the nature and forms of teasing, discussion questions for children,and a list of do's and don'ts related to teasing. Illustrated with expressive acrylic paintings, this story supports children who have been bullied and helps them respond appropriately. Ages 7-11

Monday, March 17, 2014

Fletcher and the Falling Leaves by Julia Rawlinson

Illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke. 32 p., Greenwillow, 2006. It can be difficult to accept change, especially when you don't understand it, and don't know what's going to happen. In this story, Fletcher, a little fox, worries that his favorite tree is losing all of its leaves. Although his mother assures him that "it's only autumn," he's increasingly alarmed as the tree loses more and more leaves, until they're all gone. He tries very hard to save the leaves, but the wind and other animals are more powerful than he is. When the last leaf falls from the tree, Fletcher takes it home and carefully tucks it into a little bed. But he's still worried about the tree. In the morning, though, he finds a surprise - the bare tree is covered with beautiful, sparkling icicles. It even seems to be content like this. Fletcher can finally feel relieved, and accept the change that has occurred. With its tender, yet strongly colored, pastel illustrations, this story gently reassures children that change can be a change for the better. Ages 3-8

Monday, March 10, 2014

Angry Dragon by Thierry Robberecht

Illustrated by Philippe Goossens. 26 p., Clarion, 2004. Anger can sometimes be overwhelming. When the little boy in this story becomes angry at his Mom, who has said No, he feels as if he's turned into a destructive dragon. Unlike the boy, the dragon doesn't like anything, and just says angry things. Being a dragon feels powerful and dangerous. Eventually, alone in his ruined room, the dragon/boy feels ashamed and sad, and his tears put out the fires of his anger. A boy again, he can connect with his parents, and is relieved that he can feel their love again. Illustrated with fiery oil paintings, this story offers empathy to children who have intense tantrums, and suggests the benefits of letting go of anger. Ages 3-6

Monday, March 3, 2014

What a Treasure! by Jane Hillenbrand

Illustrated by Will Hillenbrand.24 p., Holiday, 2006. Finding treasures can depend on your perspective. In this story, Mole gets a new shovel. When he digs for treasure, at first he finds things that are treasures to birds, snails, and squirrels. He generously gives these things to the creatures who identify them as treasures. Finally, he finds a new friend, another mole – a treasure for himself. With charming repetition in its text and unique, colorful, cheerful illustrations, this story gives children meaningful messages about believing in yourself, sharing, and the value of friendship. Ages 2-5

Monday, February 24, 2014

Wind-Wild Dog by Barbara M. Joosse

Illustrated by Kate Kiesler. 40 p., Holt, 2006. Some children who are adopted, particularly at relatively older ages, may experience mixed feelings about their connection and belonging with their new family. In the life of a sled dog, this story provides a metaphor for this experience. Ziva is the last puppy to be adopted from her litter, at least partly because they’re spooked by her having one brown eye and one blue one. But she is finally adopted by the Man, who is kind and gentle to her. He has some of the wildness that Ziva experiences in herself, and he understands her wildness. When Ziva is ready to train, she finds that she loves pulling weight. But still, she sometimes wants to run wild. One day, Ziva helps to pull a sled for the first time. At a rest stop, runs off into the snow, delighting in her strength. She meets a wolf, and as she smells its fur, she smells her own fur too, and realizes that she smells wild, but also smells like the Man. She misses him, and runs back to him, to a loving reunion with him. Expressively illustrated with oil paintings in brown and blue tones, this story offers empathy with the mixed feelings that some adopted children may experience, and a model for resolution. Ages 4-8

Monday, February 17, 2014

My Father is in the Navy by Robin McKinley

Illustrated by Martine Gourbault. 24 p., Greenwillow, 1992. When your parent has been away for so long that you don't remember him, homecoming can be confusing. Sara knows that her daddy is in the Navy, and her mother talks about him and reads her Daddy's letters to her. Sara knows she's supposed to say goodnight to a picture of him every night, but she doesn't remember him. When it's time for him to come home, all the excitement around her perplexes her. But when Daddy asks Sara to say hello to him, she finds that she remembers him after all. With its softly colored illustrations, this story offers empathy to children whose parents have been away for longer than they can remember. Ages 4-6

Monday, February 10, 2014

A Cat and a Dog/Un Gato y un Perro by Claire Masurel

Translated by Andrés Antreasyan. Illustrated by Bob Kolar. 32 p., Ediciones Norte-Sur, 2001. When you live in the same house, you might have lots of disagreements and fights. Such is the case for the cat and the dog in this bilingual (Spanish/English) story. Of all the things the cat and the dog fight about, they fight most about their toys. Each is very protective of her or his own toys. But one day, the cat loses his/her toy in the water, and the dog loses his/her toy in a tree. Neither can get their own toy - but each can get the other's toy. They both see this solution to their problems, and each gets the other one's toy and returns it. After that, they become friends. With its simple, colorful illustrations, this story shows children an a way to cooperate, rather than fighting, with those they live with. Ages 3-7

Monday, February 3, 2014

Love, Lizzie: Letters to a Military Mom by Lisa Tucker McElroy

Illustrated by Diane Paterson. 32 p., Whitman, 2005. Having a parent who is away because of military service can be a particularly difficult form of separation. This story describes Lizzie's time while her mother is deployed overseas through Lizzie's letters to her mother, and occasionally, notes from Mommy to Lizzie. Lizzie describes her everyday life, along with expressing wishes that her mother will be home for special days and concerns about her mother's safety. She also sends Mommy maps that she's drawn with Daddy's help, which illustrate her experiences. At the end of the story, Mommy sends Lizzie a map that leads to Mommy's return. An afterword for parents gives helpful suggestions for supporting children as they manage this kind of separation. illustrated in colorful watercolors, this story supports children's coping with military separation, encouraging an active, age-appropriate role. Ages 6-11

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Real Winner by Charise Neugebauer

Illustrated by Barbara Nascimbeni. 28 p., North-South, 2000. When everything is a competition, it's easy to forget kindness - and it isn't even fun. Such is the case for Rocky, a raccoon who has no friends. Humphrey, an endlessly kind, patient hippopotamus, believes that this is because "Rocky turned everything into a contest, and if he didn't win, he whined and cried." Indeed, when Humphrey agrees to let Rocky come fishing with him, Rocky immediately makes the first part of their journey into a race. This happens over and over again, and the refrains quickly become familiar to readers. When Humphrey is ahead, Rocky says, "It's not fair!" But soon, Humphrey sees an animal that needs help - a bird that has fallen from its nest, a duck who has lost its family, a frog trapped inside a bucket. Each time, Humphrey stops to help these creatures gently, and forgets about the race, and Rocky shouts, "I won! I won! wait till I tell my mom!" Eventually, Rocky becomes panicky about winning the fish-catching contest that he's proposed, before it gets dark and they have to go home. Humphrey explains that it isn't possible to fish fast, and tells Rocky to relax and enjoy the process. When Rocky can do this, he catches the first fish, and wins the contest. But surprisingly, he isn't happy or excited. He just feels compassion for the struggling little fish. And just as he has seen Humphrey do with the other creatures, he sets the fish free. He has learned that kindness and being a friend are more important than winning. And happily, his mother is very proud of him! With its vividly colored illustrations, outlined in black, this story helps children see a happy alternative to competitiveness. Ages 4-9

Monday, January 20, 2014

A Good Night for Freedom by Barbara Olenyik Morrow

Illustrated by Leonard Jenkins. 32 p., Holiday, 2004. Sometimes, standing up for what's right means disobeying your parents and the law. In this story, Hallie, who is European American, meets two African American slave girls her own age, Susan and Margaret, who are seeking freedom through the Underground Railroad. They are trying to escape to earn enough money to buy their mother, whom their master had sold. When Hallie asks her Pa whether, hypothetically, he would help runaway slaves, he says that he doesn't like slavery, but he respects the law, and ultimately, his conclusion is to avoid meddling. But Hallie can't help wanting to understand more. She talks to Levi Coffin, whose family is hiding the girls. He is deeply respectful, and also encourages Hallie to think for herself. When slave catchers threaten her a second time as they throw rocks through the Coffin family's window, she lies to them to protect Susan and Margaret. Mr. Coffin thanks her, and her father, rather than criticizing her, acknowledges how strong-minded she is. Deeply impressed by Susan's and Margaret's courage, she takes them as role models, and feels satisfaction in having helped them. With beautiful collage-style illustrations, this story shows children that with courage, they can fight prejudice. Ages 6-9

Monday, January 13, 2014

Blackberry Stew by Isabell Monk

Illustrated by Janice Lee Porter. 32 p., Carolrhoda, 2005. Children might understand death as never again seeing the person who died. This is Hope's experience when her beloved Grandpa Jack dies. But on the day of his funeral, her wise Aunt Poogee stops making blackberry stew long enough to question this way of understanding it. She can close her eyes and see Grandpa Jack rocking Hope when she was a baby. Aunt Poogee continues sharing memories of Grandpa Jack, but Hope can't see him until her aunt reminds her of the time they went blackberry picking and met a snake. Aunt Poogee was afraid of the snake, and left. But Hope was able to use Grandpa Jack's encouragement to touch the snake. When Aunt Poogee made blackberry stew that night, it was "warm and gooey-good," and reminded Hope of how she felt with Grandpa Jack. Remembering, Hope understands that Grandpa Jack lives on in their memories of him, and is always with them when they tell stories about him - or eat blackberry stew. She had been afraid to go to the funeral before, but now she's ready; Grandpa Jack had shown her her own courage when they met the snake, and she has access to that courage now. She knows that when she says goodbye to Grandpa Jack, it's only temporary, until the next story. The book ends with the recipe for blackberry stew. Illustrated with warmly-colored oil paintings, this story offers comfort, support, and a genuinely uplifting perspective. Ages 4-8

Monday, January 6, 2014

Two Homes by Claire Masurel

Illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton. 28 p., Candlewick Press, 2001. When your parents live apart, you have two homes. Such is the case for Alex, a small child who is sometimes with Daddy and sometimes with Mommy. Alex tells us about having two homes, two rooms, two favorite chairs, two kitchens, even two toothbrushes. Alex talks to each parent on the phone while at the other parent's, and friends come to play with Alex at both homes. Most important, Alex loves both parents, and both parents love Alex, no matter where they are and no matter Alex is. Illustrated with gentle watercolors, this story offers reassurance and a positive perspective to children of parents who are not together as a couple. Ages 3-6

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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