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Books on Trauma

Books about Trauma

Several recent events have, including the tragic shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, have brought to light the importance of talking to children about traumatic events. Our Book Chat team has put together a list of books - fiction and nonfiction, for kids, teens, and adults, that can help you discuss these events with your children as well as recognize and reconcile trauma in your own life.

The Big Bad Wolf in My House

'The Big Bad Wolf in My House,' by Valérie Fontaine

Children's Book

A young girl describes what it's like when her mom's new friend comes to stay -- a moving story about domestic violence that ends on a hopeful note.

The young girl tells us that her mom's new friend is just like the big bad wolf. At first the wolf is sweet and kind to her mom, though the girl notices the wolf's cold eyes from the very beginning. When her mom arrives home late one day, the wolf suddenly hurls angry words and terrible names at her. From that day on her mother doesn't smile anymore. The girl is careful to clean her room and brush her teeth and do everything to keep the peace, but the wolf is unpredictable, throwing plates on the floor, yelling at her mother and holding the girl's arm so tightly she is left with bruises. Whenever the yelling begins, she hides under the covers in her room.

How will she and her mom cope as the wolf becomes increasingly fierce?

Valérie Fontaine and Nathalie Dion have created a powerful, moving story about violence in the home that ends on a note of hope.

The Tunnel

'The Tunnel,' by Sarah Howden

Children's Book

A spare, powerful story about taking space to process difficult feelings 

After something bad happens, a boy feels sad and gray. Mom and Aunt Cheryl try to talk about it, but he feels like running away. So he picks up a shovel and starts digging a tunnel from his room, deep down and into the backyard. Out there, far from the lights of the house, it's dark enough that he could disappear. But the quiet distance also gives him the space he needs to see his family's love and start returning home.

As he heads back, the journey upward is different. He notices familiar details and tunes into his senses. The tunnel isn't so scary this time. The boy emerges into his room just as Mom peeks in. When she notices a twig in his hair, he is ready to talk about the tunnel and finds warmth in her gentle acknowledgment: "You came back."

Quiet, emotionally resonant text is paired with grayscale drawings accented with red in this thoughtfully layered exploration of coping with tough emotions, and taking time and space to heal.

Far Apart, Close in Heart

'Far Apart, Close in Heart: Being a Family When a Loved One is Incarcerated,' by Becky Birtha

Children's Book

Kids can have all kinds of feelings and questions when a parent is incarcerated. Rafael is embarrassed. Rashid is angry. Yen wonders if it's her fault. This sensitive story illustrates a range of situations children may face with moms or dads behind bars, while reassuring them they are not alone.

The Body Keeps the Score

'The Body Keeps the Score,' by Bessel van der Kolk

Adult Book

A pioneering researcher and one of the world's foremost experts on traumatic stress offers a bold new paradigm for healing
 
Trauma is a fact of life. Veterans and their families deal with the painful aftermath of combat; one in five Americans has been molested; one in four grew up with alcoholics; one in three couples have engaged in physical violence. Such experiences inevitably leave traces on minds, emotions, and even on biology. Sadly, trauma sufferers frequently pass on their stress to their partners and children.
 
Renowned trauma expert Bessel van der Kolk has spent over three decades working with survivors. In The Body Keeps the Score, he transforms our understanding of traumatic stress, revealing how it literally rearranges the brain's wiring--specifically areas dedicated to pleasure, engagement, control, and trust. He shows how these areas can be reactivated through innovative treatments including neurofeedback, mindfulness techniques, play, yoga, and other therapies. Based on Dr. van der Kolk's own research and that of other leading specialists, The Body Keeps the Score offers proven alternatives to drugs and talk therapy--and a way to reclaim lives.

What Happened to You

'What Happened to You?' by Oprah Winfrey and Bruce D. Perry

Adult Book

Our earliest experiences shape our lives far down the road, and What Happened to You? provides powerful scientific and emotional insights into the behavioral patterns so many of us struggle to understand.

"Through this lens we can build a renewed sense of personal self-worth and ultimately recalibrate our responses to circumstances, situations, and relationships. It is, in other words, the key to reshaping our very lives."--Oprah Winfrey

This book is going to change the way you see your life.

Have you ever wondered "Why did I do that?" or "Why can't I just control my behavior?" Others may judge our reactions and think, "What's wrong with that person?" When questioning our emotions, it's easy to place the blame on ourselves; holding ourselves and those around us to an impossible standard. It's time we started asking a different question.

Through deeply personal conversations, Oprah Winfrey and renowned brain and trauma expert Dr. Bruce Perry offer a groundbreaking and profound shift from asking "What's wrong with you?" to "What happened to you?"

Here, Winfrey shares stories from her own past, understanding through experience the vulnerability that comes from facing trauma and adversity at a young age. In conversation throughout the book, she and Dr. Perry focus on understanding people, behavior, and ourselves. It's a subtle but profound shift in our approach to trauma, and it's one that allows us to understand our pasts in order to clear a path to our future--opening the door to resilience and healing in a proven, powerful way.

The Journey

'The Journey,' by Francesca Sanna

Children's Book

With haunting echoes of the current refugee crisis this beautifully illustrated book explores the unimaginable decisions made as a family leave their home and everything they know to escape the turmoil and tragedy brought by war. This book will stay with you long after the last page is turned.

Death is Stupid

'Death is Stupid,' by Anastasia Higginbotham

Children's Book

'She's in a better place now,' adults say again and again when someone dies. But it doesn't seem better, it seems stupid. This forthright exploration of grief and mourning recognizes the anger, confusion and fear that we feel about death - but refuses to succumb to banalities when talking about it. Necessary and beautiful, Death is Stupid is an invaluable tool for talking about death, but also the possibilities for celebrating life and love.

Mockingbird

'Mockingbird,' by Kathryn Erskine

Young Adult Book

In Caitlin's world, everything is black or white. Things are good or bad. Anything in between is confusing. That's the stuff Caitlin's older brother, Devon, has always explained. But now Devon's dead and Dad is no help at all. Caitlin wants to get over it, but as an eleven-year-old girl with Asperger's, she doesn't know how. When she reads the definition of closure, she realizes that is what she needs. In her search for it, Caitlin discovers that not everything is black and white--the world is full of colors--messy and beautiful.

Kathryn Erskine has written a must-read gem, one of the most moving novels of the year.

The Rabbit Listened

'The Rabbit Listened,' by Cori Doerrfeld

Children's Book

A moving and universal picture book about empathy and kindness, sure to soothe heartaches big and small--now a New York Times bestseller and a perfect gift for any special occasion

When something sad happens, Taylor doesn't know where to turn. All the animals are sure they have the answer. The chicken wants to talk it out, but Taylor doesn't feel like chatting. The bear thinks Taylor should get angry, but that's not quite right either. One by one, the animals try to tell Taylor how to act, and one by one they fail to offer comfort. Then the rabbit arrives. All the rabbit does is listen . . . which is just what Taylor needs.

With its spare, poignant text and irresistibly sweet illustration, The Rabbit Listened is about how to comfort and heal the people in your life, by taking the time to carefully, lovingly, gently listen. 

Healing collective trauma

'Healing Collective Trauma: A Process for Integrating Our Intergenerational and Cultural Wounds,' by Thomas Hübl

Adult Book

What can you do when you carry scars not on your body, but within your soul? And what happens when those spiritual wounds exist not just in you, but in everyone in your life? Whether or not we have experienced personal trauma, we are all--in very real ways--impacted by the legacy of familial and cultural suffering. Recent research has shown that trauma affects groups just as acutely as it does individuals; it bridges families, generations, communities, and borders. "I believe that unresolved systemic traumas delay the development of the human family, harm the natural world, and inhibit the higher evolution of our species," writes Thomas Hübl. However, just as trauma can be integrated and healed for a single person, groups large and small can also find recovery.

With Healing Collective Trauma, this world-renowned spiritual teacher presents a hopeful road map to mending the mind, body, and soul. Here, Hübl explains the most recent science of trauma and shares the principles of his Collective Trauma Integration Process (CTIP), a protocol he has facilitated for groups in the US, Germany, Israel, and elsewhere. He examines collective trauma both from the perspective of the latest research and through a spiritual lens informed by 15 years as a meditation teacher.

Including contributions from renowned experts from across the field of trauma treatment, as well as meditative practices to support both counselors and clients, Healing Collective Trauma presents a fresh perspective on trauma integration along with practical tools for beginning the journey to wholeness.

The Breaking News

'The Breaking News,' by Sarah Lynne Reul

Children's Book

When devastating news rattles a young girl’s community, her normally attentive parents and neighbors are suddenly exhausted and distracted. At school, her teacher tells the class to look for the helpers—the good people working to make things better in big and small ways. She wants more than anything to help in a BIG way, but maybe she can start with one small act of kindness instead... and then another, and another. Small things can compound, after all, to make a world of difference.

The Breaking News by Sarah Lynne Reul touches on themes of community, resilience, and optimism with an authenticity that will resonate with readers young and old.

Ruby Finds a Worry

'Ruby Finds a Worry,' by Tom Percival

Children's Book

The beloved picture book about what to do when a worry won't leave you at alone -- perfect for reassuring young readers in times of stress.

Meet Ruby -- a happy, curious, imaginative young girl. But one day, she finds something unexpected: a Worry. It's not such a big Worry, at first. But every day, it grows a little bigger . . . and a little bigger . . . . Until eventually, the Worry is ENORMOUS and is all she can think about.

But when Ruby befriends a young boy, she discovers that everyone has worries, and not only that, there's a great way to get rid of them too . . . she just has to share her feelings.

This perceptive and poignant story is the perfect springboard for talking to children about emotions and anxieties.

The Big Bright Feelings picture book series provides kid-friendly entry points into emotional intelligence topics -- from being true to yourself to dealing with worries, managing anger, and making friends. These topics can be difficult to talk about. But these books act as sensitive and reassuring springboards for conversations about mental and emotional health, positive self-image, building self-confidence, and managing feelings.
 

We Are Okay

'We Are Okay,' by Nina LaCour

Young Adult Book

You go through life thinking there's so much you need. . . . Until you leave with only your phone, your wallet, and a picture of your mother.  Marin hasn't spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she's tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit and Marin will be forced to face everything that's been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart.
 
An intimate whisper that packs an indelible punchWe Are Okay is Nina LaCour at her finest. This gorgeously crafted and achingly honest portrayal of grief will leave you urgent to reach across any distance to reconnect with the people you love.

The Thing About Jellyfish

'The Thing About Jellyfish,' by Ali Benjamin

This stunning debut novel about grief and wonder was an instant New York Times bestseller and captured widespread critical acclaim, including selection as a 2015 National Book Award finalist!

After her best friend dies in a drowning accident, Suzy is convinced that the true cause of the tragedy must have been a rare jellyfish sting--things don't just happen for no reason. Retreating into a silent world of imagination, she crafts a plan to prove her theory--even if it means traveling the globe, alone. Suzy's achingly heartfelt journey explores life, death, the astonishing wonder of the universe...and the potential for love and hope right next door.

Fighting Words

'Fighting Words,' by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Young Adult Book

A candid and fierce middle grade novel about sisterhood and sexual abuse, by two-time Newbery Honor winner and #1 New York Times best seller Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, author of The War that Saved My Life

Ten-year-old Della has always had her older sister, Suki: When their mom went to prison, Della had Suki. When their mom's boyfriend took them in, Della had Suki. When that same boyfriend did something so awful they had to run fast, Della had Suki. Suki is Della's own wolf--her protector. But who has been protecting Suki? Della might get told off for swearing at school, but she has always known how to keep quiet where it counts. Then Suki tries to kill herself, and Della's world turns so far upside down, it feels like it's shaking her by the ankles. Maybe she's been quiet about the wrong things. Maybe it's time to be loud.

In this powerful novel that explodes the stigma around child sexual abuse and leavens an intense tale with compassion and humor, Kimberly Brubaker Bradley tells a story about two sisters, linked by love and trauma, who must find their own voices before they can find their way back to each other.

Published on May 31, 2022
Last Modified June 28, 2022