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 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

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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