Books to Help Kids Cope

Tragedy, whatever the form, requires a response. When kids see the world at its worst, they turn to their parents for hope and wisdom and understanding, even when the event is not understandable. Books at their best can serve as an aid to these parents, whatever the situation.  That said, there’s not a book for every subject in the world.  Finding the right book for the right child at the right time can be the hardest thing a children’s librarian ever has to do.  So without concentrating on a single tragedy, here are some books that you can place on hold that help with coping with a range of situations.

Picture Books

A Terrible Thing Happened by Margaret Holmes
A young raccoon sees something bad happen, and he worries about it for a long time until he sees a counselor and talks about his feelings. Readers never learn what exactly the terrible thing is, which makes this book useful in a variety of situations.

Deals with tragedy and post-traumatic stress.


Ida, Always by Caron Levis
Gus is a polar bear in the Central Park Zoo. When his longtime companion Ida begins to get very ill, Gus has to accept her death and learn ways to handle his grief.

Deals with terminal illness.

Sometimes by Rebecca Elliott
Toby’s sister is very sick and has to go to the hospital, so he helps figure out what he can do to help her feel better.

Deals with hospitalization and sibling illness.


Tess’s Tree by Jess Brallier
When a maple tree in Tess’s yard has to be cut down, she gathers her neighbors and family together to celebrate its life.

Deals with death and mourning.

Jack’s Worry by Sam Zuppardi
Stage fright can seem like a minor matter for adults, but it can also be a big deal to children. Jack’s worries about playing the trumpet in his first concert grow until they threaten to overwhelm him.

Deals with anxiety.


When I Feel Sad, When I Feel Angry, and When I Feel Worried by Cornelia Maude Spelman
Guinea pigs star in this series of straightforward books about handling emotions.

Deals with handling negative emotions.


Purple Balloon

The Purple Balloon by Chris Raschka

Easy-to-read text reveals that dying is hard work, for the old and especially the young, and how good it is that so many people help when a person dies, from medical staff to clergy and friends to family members.

Deals with terminal illness.


Books for Slightly Older Kids

Bird by Zetta Elliott
When a boy’s older brother becomes addicted to drugs, he turns to his art and an understanding uncle to help understand.

Deals with drug use and death of a sibling.


Con Cariño, Amalia / Love, Amalia (Spanish version and English version) by Alma Flor Ada
Amalia spends every Friday afternoon with her grandmother. After she dies, Amalia struggles to stay connected to her and the rest of her family.

Deals with death of a grandparent.


14 Cows for America by Carmen Agra Deedy
The true story of how the Massai people reacted to hearing about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Deals with terrorism.


Healing the Bruises by Lori Morgan
Julia and her mother go to live in a shelter, to get away from her abusive father and begin life in a few place.

Deals with domestic violence and post-traumatic stress.


When Dinosaurs Die by Laurie Krasny Brown
A nonfiction question-and-answer book about the extinction of the dinosaurs and, by extension, death in general.

Deals with death.

Can you think of other books that have helped you or children you know deal with trauma? Let us know in the comments.


Treasures From the Stacks

In my quest to know the Evanston Public Library collection as deeply and as well as any person can, I find a lot of interesting books.  These are not necessarily books that have circulated particularly well, mind you.  Rather, they’re titles that have caught my eye for one reason or another.  So for your reading pleasure . . .

The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens, concluded by Leon Garfield


Leon Garfield was one of those British authors the Yanks don’t tend to remember as well as they might.  He wrote novels for adults and children and managed to reproduce the tone and style of the great Victorian novels with an admirable aplomb.  So I was just delighted when I found that he’d taken it upon himself to finish (as it were) Charles Dickens’ great unfinished mystery.  If you are unfamiliar with the story then I will direct you to the musical version of The Mystery of Edwin Drood, recently revived, and very fun and funny.  The book is somber in comparison (we are talking later Dickens, after all) but still has its moments.  And hey, if Garfield’s solution to the crime doesn’t strike you as inspired, I highly recommend The D. Case in which all the great detectives of literary history come together to solve the mystery.


The Fireside Watergate by Nicholas Von Hoffman, ill. Gary Trudeau

Fireside Watergate

I freely admit, and without reservation, that this might be the kind of thing that only appeals to me.  Nonetheless, when I saw it sitting there on the shelf, just the smallest, tiniest, slimmest little book that ever you did see, it was love at first sight.  And you know what?  It’s a hoot!  It really and truly is.  I’m continually fascinated by those books that are written about historical moment while those moments are happening.  They have not yet achieved any kind of distance from the material so their perspective, while narrow, is invaluable.  Now I’d recently finished reading Steve Sheinkin’s remarkable encapsulation of Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers in Most Dangerous so this proved to be an ideal literary companion.  It’s very funny, insightful, and the added bonus of the inclusion of Doonesbury comics (some you’ll remember from syndication and some that were included here for the first time, never to be seen again) is a bonus.

Focus by Arthur Miller


In 1945 a 30-year-old playwright by the name of Arthur Miller penned a novel.  And for whatever reason, here at Evanston Public Library we appear to have an original edition.  In fact, if you flip to the back inside cover you’ll see a photo of a very young Miller (no glasses in sight) with scant attention paid to his plays.  It sorta cute.  The book is still in print thanks to a William H. Macy film version a couple of years ago.  The cover, needless to say, has changed a tad over the years.

And speaking of author photos, I have a mission for you.  Go to the stacks.  Find Kurt Jose Ayau’s novel The Brick Murder: A Tragedy and Other Stories.  Now flip to the back of the book at check out the author photo there.


EPL Recommends: Coding for Kids

The first in a series of reviews by local experts in various fields.  Today, our guest is Jessica Jolly, a digital literacy coach who helps other adults improve their digital literacy skills. As Jessica says she, “cried through all her math classes in high school but now uses coding enthusiastically to simplify and shorten tedious work.”  Ms. Jolly applies her coding skills primarily in Microsoft Excel and in WordPress, and is learning to code in the R language. As she put it so succinctly, if she can code, anyone can code, and she wants to encourage adults learn these skills for their own and their children’s benefit. She can be contacted @

Take it away, Jessica!

CodingCoding For Kids

For Dummies series

Camille McCue, PhD


Is your child interested in coding? Are you wondering how you can help them learn coding skills? Or  how to support their developing interest?  The library has a new book that you should check out: Coding For Kids, For Dummies series.

There are 15 projects included in this book which get progressively more challenging and are designed to be worked in order. But children who are comfortable with some key concepts such as variables, constants, and procedures can probably jump in anywhere.


The author, Camille McCue, has excellent credentials in the STEM field, and in this book, she is clearly trying to

associate math with fun! She does a good job of  relating mathematical concepts such as graphing (x- and y-axes),

angles, and random numbers to real world applications (no pun intended). This book also will help children begin

to reason and follow a proscribed sequence of steps to achieve an outcome. If your child has never been exposed to coding, this book is a great place to start, as long as someone who is familiar with coding is available to help with questions and concepts.


Nuts and bolts:

There is a trial version of the MicroWorlds EX, 35 days and 90 saves allowed. Your child will need to download the software on to a computer. It works with Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1 and on the Mac it is OS X 10.7 and later.

This process is a great opportunity for your child to understand how to download software, where it is installed, and the importance of looking at the accompanying README file.  After 35 days, the trial license will expire, so it would be best to have a schedule in order to complete the desired projects.

Wait . . . I’m sorry. What authors are coming to EPL again?

I don’t know about you but with all the stuff going on in my life and my work, it can be hard to keep track of author visits to the library.  Don’t you hate it when you hear about someone cool after they’ve already left?  Well if so, worry no longer.  Today we present to you a handy dandy list of all the upcoming author talks for the next few months. Good for what ails ya and more to come.

Fathers and Daughters: My Soul to His Spirit

My Soul

Sunday, June 12, 2016, 3:00-4:30 p.m., Main Library – Community Meeting Room (First Floor). Register here.

Author Melda Beaty reads from her compilation of stories and letters written by African American girls and women to their fathers. Girls and women in the community are invited to share their own stories.

An Afternoon with Rita Williams-Garcia

Gone Crazy

Thursday, July 14th, 2016, 2-4 p.m., Main Library – Community Meeting Room (First Floor).  Register here.

The Dajae Coleman Foundation and Evanston Public Library present an afternoon with Rita Williams-Garcia, award-winning author of One Crazy Summer, P.S. Be Eleven, and Jumped. Williams-Garcia, whose book, Gone Crazy in Alabama, won this year’s Coretta Scott King Award, will discuss her life as a writer, answer audience questions, and sign books. Copies of several Williams-Garcia titles will be available for purchase from Bookends & Beginnings. All ages. Please register. Space is limited.

Joseph Epstein reads: Masters of the Games: Essays and Stories on Sport


Saturday, July 16th, 2016, 3-4:30 p.m., Main Library – Community Meeting Room (First Floor).  Register here.

Local treasure Joseph Epstein reads from his latest collection of short stories and essays. Part of the Summer Reading, “Read for the Win” program series.

Evanston Literary Salon: Crystal Chan


Saturday, October 1, 2016, 2:00-3:00 p.m., Main Library – Community Meeting Room (First Floor). No registration necessary.

Author Crystal Chan discusses her experiences publishing a diverse book for children.



Muhammad Ali: Four Films, Four Books

The strangest thing about all the recent celebrity deaths is how universally beloved each passing man was. David Bowie, Prince, and now Muhammad Ali brought people together both in life and death. Ali has struck a particular note with fans, young and old. My Facebook feed this week was fascinating because friend after friend posted pictures of themselves with Ali at various stages of his life. The only conclusion one can reach from such posts is that he was as great a guy in real life as he was in the ring.

To best honor Ali and his work, here are four movies and four books to best remember the legend.


Muhammad Ali: In His Own Words
MA in his own words
Rare archival footage animates the life of the man once known as Cassius Clay, who was to become The Greatest.

The Trials of Muhammad Ali
the trials of muhammad ali
The life of Ali outside the boxing ring, from his refusal to be drafted in the Vietnam War to his conversion to Islam, proves as thrilling as his athletic successes.

I Am Ali
i am ali
Meet the Muhammad Ali known by friends and family, including George Foreman and Mike Tyson.

Thrilla in Manila: Ali vs. Frazier
Thrilla in Manila
One of the most famed sports rivalries of the twentieth century comes to life as Ali takes on Joe Frazier in their third matchup in 1975.


Running With the Champ : My Forty-Year Friendship with Muhammad Ali


A personal tribute to the remarkable friendship between Tim Shanahan and Muhammad Ali, including dozens of never-before-told stories about Ali, his family, his entourage, and various celebrities along the way—as well as never-before-published personal photos.

Blood Brothers : The Fatal Friendship Between Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X


In this provocative history, sports historians Roberts and Smith examine the relationship between two central figures of the 1960s: Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali.

The Phantom Punch : The Story Behind Boxing’s Most Controversial Bout

Phantom Punch

Journalist and sports historian Rob Sneddon brings new perspective to the world of boxing in the 1960s, to the managers, teamsters, promoters, boxers, and the fight itself—a fight that remains both a key milestone in the history of sports in Maine and the most controversial bout in boxing history.

Approaching Ali : A Reclamation in Three Acts


Following in the grand contemporary literary tradition of writers such as Gay Talese, Tom Wolfe, and Nick Hornby, Miller gives us a series of extraordinary insights into a man that he has been approaching nearly his entire life. The result is both a new introduction to the human side of a boxing legend as well as a loving and beautifully written reclamation of Muhammad Ali’s life after the ring.

Upcoming Interesting Books

Here at Evanston Public Library we never run short of good books. The latest crop is coming in now and there are some true doozies in the mix.  Here’s a brief smattering of some titles that you may not read about in your New York Times Book Review but that remain very interesting just the same:

Golden Delicious

Do you see that tiny quote on the cover? It’s a little difficult to make out so I’ll replicate it here:

“What a crazed, beautiful book” – George Saunders, author of Tenth of December

Mr. Saunders may have been holding a bit back on this title.  As it happens, this is a meta book in the purest sense of the term.  At first it reads like a children’s book, but the ideas go quite a bit deeper.  I’ll let Kirkus summarize the story for me.  Set in the town of Appleseed, where stories grow in the soil, “Main character ____, a melancholy kid, pals around with his pet sentence, ‘I am,’ and someone named Reader. Given the general weirdness—traffic cones run the town, for instance—actual readers can be forgiven for not realizing right away that Reader is, in fact, a reader, and specifically the reader of this book. When Appleseed spirals into a downturn and ____’s mother takes off to join the Mothers, who patrol Appleseed’s perimeter looking for wayward words, the importance of readers/Reader becomes clear.”  If you loved The Phantom Tollbooth but wish it had been written for people over the age of 12, this is for you.


This is for all of you out there who have thought to yourselves, “I like Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None but I think it could be hugely improved if you just added a punk band.”  Well your prayers have been answered!  “Harvey Keill, ex-manager of the Ladykillers, arranges a reunion for his notorious punk band on a remote island off the coast of Seattle. But once the band and their eclectic entourage arrive, a dark secret emerges from their past to haunt them as, one by one, the guests begin to fall prey to a mysterious fate.”  And by “mysterious fate” we mean “death”.  So it goes.

Playing Dead

This is so much fun, though perhaps a teensy bit gruesome.  Who hasn’t fantasized, if only vaguely, about what it would take to fake your own death?  Apparently it happens more than you might think.  There are well known cases like the 9/11 fraudsters and a lot of strange stories.  I love this description of the book that says:

“Greenwood tracks down a British man who staged a kayaking accident and then returned to live in his own house while all his neighbors thought he was dead. She takes a call from Michael Jackson (no, he’s not dead—or so her new acquaintances would have her believe), stalks message boards for people plotting pseudocide, and buys her own death certificate in the Philippines. Along the way, she learns that love is a much less common motive than money, and that making your death look like a drowning virtually guarantees that you’ll be caught. (Disappearing while hiking, however, is a way great to go.)”


To be perfectly frank, it sounds like something out of a Dan Brown novel.  A lost Leonardo DaVinci piece of art surfaces thanks to the efforts of an “art explorer”.  And here’s the crazy part.  He found this art (a holy child drawing) in a Christie’s catalog, attributed to Annibale Carracci.  So he bought it.  For $1,700.  The full story’s even more intriguing.

Last One

I sort of love this book for its premise alone.  It’s quite simple.  A woman joins a survival reality show.  She’s doing really well and that’s when she embarks on a solo quest.  Of course, when she encounters the abandoned towns with what she believes are fake corpses strewn about the place, she just powers through.  Bummer the actual apocalypse just happened.  She hasn’t a clue.

Green Metropolis

Honestly? I just like the cover.


A smart idea for a book.  It’s all the stuff they cut out of the canonical Bible centuries ago. The Midrash, the Apocrypha, Gnostic Gospels, you name it.  Or, as the creators call it, these are the “DVD extras” of the Bible.  How has no one ever thought to do this in a humorous way before?