This post is for my sister—a soon to be licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She asked for my opinion on books that deal with difficult subjects in a delicate way… to aid children in making sense of trauma or sadness or difficulty in their lives.
Note that I have NOT read every single one of these books. What I did, was pore over many, many lists, follow many rabbit-trails, read a few message boards, evaluated many reviews and compiled these titles that looked to be the most promising. This is certainly not exhaustive—I don’t doubt I’m missing some great titles. But I did go ahead and ignore 90% of what was recommended for therapy books precisely because that’s what they were designed to be (e.g. “Mommy and Daddy Dinosaur Got a Divorce” or somesuch). In this scope (as in most others) I seek stories primarily… good messages secondarily.
There are some exceptions, but I do think the art of subtlety in this area is perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind when reading books with children. Kids aren’t stupid. They see through things that moralize or patronize very quickly. But again… I have not read all these books personally so maybe a few of them do exactly this… let me know! I am only bookmarking this list for people to peruse who may want to investigate ways to cope with life stressors through the welcoming, non-threatening medium of picture books. If you know of something that I’m missing here, please comment!!!
- Rabbityness (non-specific but sudden loss, grief)
- Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs (death of grandparent, love this book!!!)
- The Heart and the Bottle (finding joy after the person who inspired us is gone. Exquisite.
- Horton Hatches the Egg (adoption classic!)
- Loon Summer (divorce)
- Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (enough said, by the way… the movie was pretty good!)
- Charlie Anderson (divorce, normalizing step-families)
- The Quarreling Book (stopping the cycle of anger. Classic and fun.)
- My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother (sibling rivalry)
- A Terrible Thing Happened (an exception to the “story first” rule, because it seems this could be really helpful in helping kids heal from witnessing or experiencing trauma—especially for things that are hard to find the right words for like sexual abuse, etc.)
- How to Take the Grrrr Out of Anger (another exception. I own this book. My then-8 year old read it… it’s now being passed down to his brother. It didn’t “cure” anger. But it helped him to remember some strategies for dealing with it in a healthy way.)
- Always and Forever (death)
- When They Fight (parental fighting)
- My Many Colored Days (for the preschool set to help put names to feelings)
- A Mother for Choco (adoption)
- The Invisible Boy (teaching empathy/inclusion)
- Spaghetti in A Hot Dog Bun: Having the Courage to Be Who You Are (bullying)
- You’ve Got Dragons (OCD or anxiety)
- Now One Foot, Now the Other (coping with physical disability)
- Michael Rosen’s Sad Book (a beautiful book on grief; it doesn’t try to ‘fix’ it. It just owns it and explores it.)
- Ian’s Walk (a sibling with autism book)
- Those Shoes (wants vs. needs, making sense of poverty)
- A Day’s Work (poverty, honesty, dignity… not just for kids in therapy!!!)
- If Nathan Were Here (non-specific death of a friend, making peace with that loss)
- Rudi’s Pond (death of friend)
- The Storm Whale (single parenting)