Books

Books of Comfort for Children in Crisis

Cover image of child being consoled by an adult

For me, one of the most comforting lines in children’s literature occurs at the conclusion of Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. Max, who has been out and about in his wild rumpus returns home and finds his supper waiting for him, “and it was still hot”. But for many children such comfort has been stripped from them for any number of reasons, natural disaster, death, horrific loss… When children are in crisis, be it public or more private, the first resource considered is usually a counselor or specialist. But books can be an even more effective source of solace and support. Think of how often famous adults, especially those who have faced difficulties in their lives, are asked what book(s) influenced or sustained them. Books can provide a similar, powerful a benefit to children and perhaps in a quieter, more personalized way than other resources. Author and illustrator Eugene Yelchin, when writing a review in the New York Times, August 23, 2015 noted that “picture books have long been concerned with helping children transition to an unfamiliar place”. While he was referring to immigration, trauma and loss take children to unfamiliar places and books can be the keys to help them understand, navigate and survive these experiences. A child who might not be ready to talk about a loss may find an acknowledgment of their fears /sadness when reading about a similar experience in a book, hopefully realizing that theirs is not a unique experience. This is why ALSC created its newest list, Comforting Reads for Difficult Times.

In the book Summerlost by Ally Condie, Cedar, who has a hard time dealing with her grief over the death of her father and younger brother, finds herself in a new friendship that helps her work through her sadness.

Reading about an experience that mirrors one’s own can also offer hope in terms of how the protagonist finds ways to survive, through their own resilience and /or the help of others. Books can offer many alternative definitions to love and survival.

In What a Beautiful Morning, by Arthur Levine, Noah’s grandfather is starting to have trouble remembering things. In Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson, a classroom corrects their mistreatment of a new classmate. In Just My Luck by Cammie McGovern, Benny wonders if all his hard work to be good at home and school is even worth it, while his father fights illness and his best friend has moved away.

These are just a few examples about how books that deal honestly with hard topics can help children not just navigate hard times but survive them. Books are not a panacea for life’s problems, but those that deal with serious subjects honestly can open doors for possibilities, not the least of which is discussions with adults who care about them.

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Photo of Edie Ching, guest blogger
Photo courtesy of guest blogger

Edie Ching, a former School librarian now teaches for the I School at the University of Maryland, a Children’s Literature Survey Course and a short course on Diversity and Children’s Literature. 

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at alscblog@gmail.com.

One comment

  1. Annette Goldsmith

    A great list, Edie! Thank you for introducing it in your blog post. I’m especially pleased to see Enchanted Lion’s Batchelder winning _Cry, Heart, But Never Break_ in the section on grief.

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