SLJ created a list of picture books to help kids cope with tragedy because of the recent Sandy Hooks tragedy. I think it’s a great starting point–and I’ll bet we all have some books we would add.
I think books can help us deal with painful issues; books helped save me when I was a kid being abused and tortured. Books can help us by directly dealing with issues, or sideways through metaphor or fantasy. Books can make it easier to hear about and deal with painful things–and picture books are great at doing that.
Picture books aren’t just for young children; I think they can also be great tools for older children, and even adults, to deal with trauma or to find hope again. Because trauma and the loss of someone we love can also bring up anger, sadness, fear, grief, and depression, I would add these picture books:
The Heart and the Bottle
By Oliver Jeffers
This is a moving book that deals with grief and loss, and the way it can make you forget how to see beauty around you, or care about things, or be curious–and the way it can make you want to protect yourself and your feelings. And it reminds us how important it is to still feel and care about people, and the people we’ve lost–all using metaphor. It’s beautifully written and illustrated.
Michael Rosen’s Sad Book
Written by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Quentin Blake
This book deals directly with grief and death; Michael Rosen talks about losing his son and his mother, and how it makes him sad much of the time, or angry, and the way he deals with it and tries to make himself feel better. He does things like reminds himself that everyone has sad stuff, and he tries to do one thing he’s proud of every day and then focus on that when he goes to bed, and do one thing that makes him feel happy–and he writes about sad. He also talks about remembering the good times he had with his son and his mother. There’s a lot that people who’ve lost someone will relate to in this book. I wish the ending felt a bit stronger in a happy ending or more wrapped up, but it’s a good book.
Sometimes Bad Things Happen
By Ellen Jackson, photographs by Shelley Rotner
This book talks about some of the things that can make kids feel bad, including bad things they hear on the news, and then reminds them that most people want to make the world a better place. It also goes through some good coping methods for when bad things happen and you feel sad, scared, hurt or angry, including thinking of the good people you know, hugging a friend, looking up at the sky, etc. It has some good suggestions and a positive outlook, and may be a good tool for traumatized children.
The Boy Who Didn’t Want to Be Sad
By Rob Goldblatt
A book about a boy who doesn’t want to be sad so he tries to get rid of everything that makes him sad, shutting himself away from everyone and everything that could possibly make him sad–until he realizes that the things that make him sad also make him happy. It encourages readers to embrace even the things that make us sad, and to keep the people and animals we love in our life.
By Patricia Thomas, illustrated by Chris L Demarest
This is a simple, sweet book about feeling sad and doing something to change it. It starts out with a sad boy and a sad father and a red sled, and then has them having fun in the snow, and coming home to hot chocolate, a hug, a sleep and a read. It is lighter than the other books, and not as in depth, but a good reminder that sometimes distraction and having fun can help feeling sad or down.
The Blue Day Book: A Lesson in Cheering Yourself Up
By Bradley Trevor Greive
A book that uses humorous animal photos to lighten the mood and help the reader hear what it being said. The book first talks about how you may feel if you’re feeling down, and then has some concrete suggestions that can help lift your mood, like taking a short nap, singing your favorite songs, be creative, talking to your friends or thinking about someone you like. It can help to lighten your mood (though it may also feel hard to read when things are really down).
When I Feel Sad (The Way I Feel Books)
Written by Cornelia Maude Spelman, illustrated by Kathy Parkinson.
A sweet, reassuring book about feeling sad. It talks about reasons you might feel sad, the way sadness feels, and some ways to deal with being sad and feel better, such as talking to someone, crying, getting a hug, and then using distraction. The illustrations are sweet and comforting, and may help some children.
And there are also many, many picture books that offer comfort and hope and escape.
What are your picture book suggestions for dealing with trauma and grief?