School Library Journal has a list of good books to share with children to help
them make sense of their often wonderful, but in this case, sometimes challenging and sad world.
Why Did It Happen? Books to Help Kids Cope with Tragedy
From the School Library Journal.
Parents and teachers will be combing home and library bookshelves over the next few weeks and months for stories to comfort their children and students. While there are no books that specifically address the events that occurred in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, there are titles that will ease young fears and offer kids hope. Below you’ll find some recommendations from School Library Journal’s Book Review staff. We welcome your suggestions; please feel free to add them to our comments section.
Cohn, Janice. Why Did It Happen? Helping Children Cope in a Violent World. illus. by Gail Owens. Morrow. 1994.
K-Gr 3-Daniel’s friend owns the neighborhood grocery store. When Mr. James is injured during a robbery at his store, the six-year-old child must deal with fear and anger. Helped by his parents, teacher, classmates, and Mr. James himself, Daniel learns how to cope with his feelings. An introduction aimed at parents explains how they can help their children understand the existence of violence and develop compassion and empathy in spite of it. Cohn presents the issue in a sensitive and generally nonthreatening way. The actual assault is never shown and the injury is not serious; just enough is described to initiate discussion. The full-color pastel illustrations provide a comforting view of Daniel and Mr. James’s story, as well as of the multicultural community. Given the presence of violence in almost every community, the topic will, unfortunately, be familiar to most readers. An excellent book for both school librarians and parents to share with their young children.-Mary Rinato Berman, New York Public Library
Gellman, Nathan & Thomas Hartman. Bad Stuff in the News: A Guide to Handling the Headlines. North-South/SeaStar. 2002.
Gr 6-10–In the introduction, Rabbi Gellman and Monsignor Hartman explain that their intention is to help readers avoid becoming either overly frightened by or desensitized to the ongoing flood of bad news on television and in the newspapers. In each chapter, they elucidate ways to understand why these things happen as well as ways to fix them, if not now, then as readers grow up. Chapters cover terrorism; school violence; natural disasters; physical, sexual, and emotional abuse; hatred and racism; “bad sportsmanship”; serious illness; and more. The discussions offer definitions and examples, followed by sections called “Stuff to Understand,” about the forces and factors that precipitate such events, and “Stuff You Can Fix,” practical suggestions for coping with disaster or contributing to solutions. The authors emphasize, however, that many problems are for adults to handle. They remind readers that there is oftentimes room for negotiation and mutual understanding between children and parents, and that some things, like clothes, are about taste, which is different from good and bad. They close with the gentle reminder that the world is not yet perfect, but that that is OK. The book is illustrated with collages of headlines. It would be useful in a number of classrooms, including social studies, civics, and journalism, and for initiating discussions on the realities of the destruction of the World Trade Center.–Sylvia V. Meisner, Greensboro Montessori School, NC
Patel, Andrea. On That Day: A Book of Hope for Children. illus. by author. Tricycle. 2002.
PreS-Gr 2–How does one address the attacks of September 11, 2001, in a picture book for young children? Patel’s efforts to make her own peace with the subject have resulted in a book that does so quite effectively. Her tissue-paper collages depict, at first, a world that is “very big, and really round, and pretty peaceful.” The white expansive backgrounds allow viewers to focus completely on the images and message. The author goes on to explain that “sometimes bad things happen because people act in mean ways and hurt each other on purpose.” (Even preschoolers know this to be true.) The accompanying scene is simply a collage outline of America. Patel then offers a variety of ways that children, or anyone, could help the world: sharing, playing and laughing, taking care of the Earth, and being kind. Concluding pages point to the strength of the goodness that exists; listeners are reminded that they are part of that. Short sentences build into longer, cumulative lines; this repetition plugs into a familiar, oral tradition, while providing reinforcement for the ideas. Both this textual pattern and the circular, connected lines of the art break at the delivery of the terrible news. They resume, subtly, in the denouement. This book will be welcomed by those who want to mark the anniversary of the tragedy with children; it is worth noting that it would also be useful to open a dialogue in the context of any violent act.–Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library
Rotner, Shelley & Sheila Kelly. Good-Byes. photos. by Shelley Rotner. Millbrook. 2002.
PreS- Gr 1-As readers come to learn there are all kinds of good-byes and at times they can be difficult. Accompanying this simple text are clear color photographs depicting children saying farewell to a host of familiar people from a parent at the start of a school day to the local grocery store owner when as they leave a shop. The author touches on the good-byes of a child who has two homes, between friends when families move, and when a loved one has died and the feelings these events evoke. The author states: “The hardest good-bye is a good-bye that’s forever…” Every page includes a large photograph, except this last one. The book ends on a lighter note with the line: “…but most good-byes are ‘Good-bye for now!’” A superb choice for introducing this subject with young children.-Meghan R. Malone, East Milton Public Library District, MA
The following titles were not reviewed in School Library Journal, but are recommended for libraries:
Holmes. Margaret M. A Terrible Thing Happened. Magination Pr. 2000.
Kubler-Ross, Elizabeth. On Children and Death: How Children and Their Parents Can and Do Cope With Death. Scribner. 1997.