Book Reviews

How to Write about Trauma for Children: My December Reads

This December was a slow reading month for me, with the holidays in full swing. However, I realized as I was writing this post that several of the books I read this month dealt with childhood trauma in some way. I am not an author, but I imagine it must be difficult to write about traumatic events in a way that is accessible to children. The top three books listed here are fantastic examples of just that.

Louisiana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo

Screen Shot 2018-12-26 at 8.35.07 PM

5StarsLouisiana’s Way Home is written as a long letter to an unknown person and follows its title character through a very difficult time in her life. I enjoyed the style of this book. Louisiana’s voice is well-developed and you can almost feel her mannerisms through the prose (if that’s possible….???) Also, in true DiCamillo fashion, there are plenty of great vocabulary words in this book!

What’s most notable about this book to me is how it handles trauma. What happens to Louisiana is traumatic, without a doubt, but trauma is an especially unfamiliar and unnavigable feeling for children. Louisiana’s trauma is there. It isn’t covered up, but it obvious that she doesn’t have the words for what she feels.

Zenobia by Morten Durr

Screen Shot 2018-12-26 at 8.31.43 PM4StarsAmina, a Syrian refugee, recalls the days leading up to her trip and the historical Syrian queen that gave her hope. Durr and Hornman use lots of beautiful shading to effectively tell the story of Amina’s last few minutes of life with very few words. This book would make a great educational tool. The illustrations will spark many conversations and the ending, which may be unexpected for children who are used to happy ever afters, provides a good way to talk about the realities of the Syrian Refugee Crisis.

Novalee and the Spider Secret
by Lori Ann Stephens

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5StarsNovalee and the Spider Secret is a book that deals with, arguably, the most sensitive of sensitive topics: childhood sexual abuse. I am always nervous when I come across such children’s books because, while they are very much needed, they could easily be written so, so wrong. I’m happy to say that Novalee and the Spider Secret is done RIGHT. Stephens handles this subject matter very skillfully. It is filled with nuances to spark conversations. The effects Nova’s abuse has on her familial relationships, the indescribable feelings she has as a child who doesn’t have all the words for what’s happening to her, and how certain past adult behaviors have influenced her reactions to her abuse. Another thing I love about how Stephens handles this story is that it doesn’t end perfectly. Her mother, like many mothers, doesn’t believe her the first time she tell her about the abuse. It isn’t until Nova reiterates her feelings that she is believed. I highly recommend this book. I think it would be a fantastic book to read and discuss with children or in counseling sessions.

Sarai and the Meaning of Awesome
by Sarai Gonzalez

Screen Shot 2018-12-26 at 8.33.23 PM4StarsSarai is a new transitional chapter book series based on Sarai Gonzalez, famous for her viral “Soy Yo” music video and social activism. Sarai is a character with an entrepeneural that works together with her sisters to try to buy back her grandparents’ home. The book very subtlely addresses financial issues and can spark important conversations. Many children will feel a familiarity with Sarai’s character.

Ghost Friends Forever: My Heart Lies in the 90s
by Monica Gallagher

Screen Shot 2018-12-26 at 8.34.11 PM3StarsThis short graphic novel reads like it was written by a middle schooler…. and I honestly don’t know whether that’s a good or bad thing. My guess is that middle schoolers will enjoy the book, in which a ghost hunting girl falls in love with a ghost girl (and all kinds of love and family drama ensues). I give credit to the author for trying to be inclusive by writing in a lesbian relationsip, however, the book falls short on many other fronts.

Baby Feminists by Libby Babbott-Klein

Screen Shot 2018-12-26 at 8.32.02 PM3StarsStop trend-ifying feminist herstory. Stop. It’s just Another Book With Frida Kahlo on the Cover , but not as good as these! The lift flaps and artwork is worthwhile, though.



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