Why Did It Happen? Books to Help Kids Cope with Tragedy

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.

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


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