Good books can help to heal the heart, especially when life is difficult, sad or challenging. I’ve collected some outstanding newer books that take on subject matters dealing with death, sickness, divorce and disabilities. The chapter books are good for ages nine and older and the picture books are good for ages four through eight.
Let’s begin with books about disabilities. Out Of My Mind, by Sharon M. Draper, is a wonderfully written book that brilliantly presents the view point of fifth grader Melody as she deals with cerebral palsy. Even though she can’t walk, talk or even write, she can’t seem to let her classmates know that she’s really smart. When she is finally able to communicate, the story showcases her brilliance and versatility. This book is a definite Newbery candidate!
Anything But Typical, by Nora Raleigh Baskin, is about twelve-year-old Jason and how his life is affected with autism. Other students think he’s weird as he seems to be in constant motion. But he has found a new love of composing stories on his silent computer. He meets another author on-line and finally gets a chance to meet her. But will she think he’s weird too? This brilliant book is anything but typical!
My Thirteenth Winter: A Memoir, by Samantha Abeel, is a fascinating look from inside someone who suffers from an unknown disability: dyscalculia. As the author grew up and struggled to survive throughout her formative years, she found that she couldn’t remember numbers, amounts or even locker combinations. The way this book is written in a memoir fashion, along with Ms. Abeel’s struggles to live her life, help all who read it appreciate all that the Lord has given us to live our lives to the fullest.
Comfort, by Joyce Moyer Hostetter, is a continuation from the author’s outstanding earlier book, “Blue”. However, it’s not necessary to read the earlier book to enjoy this story. World War II has just ended and Ann Fay’s father has returned from serving in the military. Ann Fay is struggling with polio and enjoys the natural heat from Warm Springs in Georgia, not far from her state of North Carolina. There is much for Ann Fay to deal with between her polio, her father recovering from terrible war memories and much more in this interesting historical fiction.
42 Miles, by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer, and illustrated by Elaine Clayton, is a book designed like a scrapbook but filled with poetry from the viewpoint of a girl on the threshold of becoming a teen. Her parents have recently divorced and she is struggling to deal with her new life. Her parents are now separated by 42 miles and the poetry reflects her struggles, growth and maturity with the subject near the end of the book.
Fred Stays With Me!, by Nancy Coffelt, and illustrated by Tricia Tusa, is a picture book dealing with divorce even though the word is never written. A young girl is shuffled back and forth between mom and dad but she is never separated from her pet dog, Fred. The simple, yet powerful, story shows the importance of consistency and love when children are caught in the middle of divorce.
Grandma’s Gloves, by Cecil Castellucci, and illustrated by Julia Denos, begins with a darling young girl and her sweet smelling grandma who loves to tend to her garden. It’s evident that the girl adores her grandmother but also recognizes that she is failing in health. When her grandma does die, she knows that she can carry on all that was taught her in the garden and thus the circle of life is complete. The watercolors seem to lift the flowers and plants off the pages.
Big Cat Pepper, by Elizabeth Partridge, and illustrated by Lauren Castillo, deals with the death of a pet cat and how the family deals with it. The rhyming text, along with the mixed-media paintings, is a nice addition for families with pets.
And What Comes After A Thousand?, by Anette Bley, is about young Lisa and her older friend, Otto. She enjoys his company along with his wife. But he becomes ill and then dies and she must struggle with this turn of events. She eventually comes to understand that her friend will always be with her. The beautiful pastel art covers the pages with the emotions felt by Lisa.
My Little Grandmother Often Forgets, by Reeve Lindbergh, and illustrated by Kathryn Brown, showcases the strong bond between child and grandparent, especially when the grandparent begins to lose his or her memory. The watercolors are a perfect fit for this wonderful picture book.