Enter any bookstore and there are shelves upon shelves of Self-Help books for adults. The range is amazing — from coping with grief to relationship advice to sexual confidence and self esteem. (Yup, being a grownup actually has nothing to do with having life actually figured out. So, that's fun.) There's plenty in these shelves for when we're feeling completely lost... but not much for when you just need a little reminder that you'll be OK.
I've recently figured out, though, that children's books actually have the magic touch. It's totally human to experience death, loneliness, and loss of trust, and god knows there are days we forget how fortunate we are. It comes with the territory of existing. But sometimes something tiny and silly — like the stuff found in books for a kid age 6 — can remind us how much cool stuff we can do and how worthy we are of experiencing it. We don't have to buy 253-page books about slowing down, or 500-page books about "living in the moment" — sometimes, 32 pages of lovely art and true words will do. Like these, for instance:
Whimsy's Heavy Things by Julie Kraulis
Whimsy has so many heavy things she carries around. She tries to get rid of them by sweeping them under the rug, hanging them high in a tree, and sailing them off into the sea, but she still feels weighed down. Then Whimsy has a realization — maybe, if broken down and dealt with piece by piece, the heavy things won't seem so heavy any more. (I know. I KNOW.)
The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers
A little girl's days are filled with wonder, delight, and curiosity as she seeks out life with an open heart. One day, something happens and she feels the need to protect her heart. Nothing is the same for a while — but then she's reminded, unexpectedly, to live with her heart open again.
The Scar by Charlotte Moundlic
A little boy is overwhelmed by the death of his mother. He tries to go about his life, and one day while running, falls and skins his knee. He wishes more than anything his mother were there help, and he worries he that over time he will forget her. All the while, he keeps a very close eye on his scab. One day he reaches to feel it and it has fallen off, without him even noticing. He rubs the smooth pink skin left behind. The scar is a light reminder of what used to be a large, noticeable scab. Light reminders of his mother are everywhere, but he no longer needs to feel them every day to know they are there. He almost cries... but he doesn't. We stronger than we think, you know?
South by Patrick McDonnell
Mooch the cat finds a little lost bird who needs help going south to find his family. The two experience a lot on their journey together, and become close, even though they know they will part. This book is wordless, as all it needs is the emotional illustrations. People say friends come and go in our lives for a reason. Sometimes they help us, guide us, or just make a tough journey a little easier to bare.
Gentle Willow by Joyce C. Mills, Ph.D.
Something is happening to Willow. She is not as strong, not as vibrant, and not quite herself. Willow's friends feel sadness, confusion, anger, and love as it becomes clear that Willow will soon die. Willow knows there is nothing she can do — and when Willow is no longer weeping, everyone who knew her has, in some way, been changed by her life and her death. Willow and all the forest must accept what they cannot change.
Cat Heaven / Dog Heaven by Cynthia Rylant
It's everything you'd hope it would be — our pets move on to a place where they frolic and have all the treats and toys and romps through nature they deserve. They don't forget us, though. They see us, they keep an eye out, and they watch over the house in which they once lived. (You will smile despite your tears.)
An Awesome Book! by Dallas Clayton
Some people in the world have forgotten to dream magic, fantastical, musical dreams. They dream about matching forks and spoons, telephones, cars — they even dream dreams that aren't their own. The BIG dreamers need to remember to dream because that is how the world changes. Often, when we think we are done dreaming, that we have done and imagined all we can, that is when something awesome happens — so just keep dreaming.