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.

Friday, March 20, 2015

In Our Mothers' House by Patricia Polacco

48 p., Philomel, 2009. Narrated in the voice of a little girl grown up, this story recounts memories of growing up in a warm, loving family. The two moms, Meema and Marmee, have three children by adoption, each of a different ethnic background. The narrator remembers dancing with her family, celebrating holidays together, having block parties, being sick with a tummy virus, building a tree house, hosting the school's mother-daughter tea, and enjoying Nonno's (grandfather's) cooking. She loves that everyone in the family can speak freely, and recalls tenderly how her moms would do anything for the children. One neighbor is clearly prejudiced against them, which Meema and Marmee explain to the children as being full of fear and lacking in love; the family's other neighbors offer them support. When the children grow up and leave home, they return to marry in their mothers' garden and to share their own children's growing up with Meema and Marmee. After Meema and Marmee die, the narrator's younger brother lives in their house with his family. The house is home to the three now-grown children in the deepest sense of the word. With expressive pencil and marker illustrations, this story celebrates the joys of family life. Ages 7-10

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

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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