Breaking the Silence, Saving a Life

March 5, 2024

Last week I reviewed several picture books recently published by Magination Press, the children’s book imprint of the American Psychological Association. Their books tackle tough topics with sensitivity, accuracy, and hope. Sharing these books with children is more important than ever, because stories can touch the heart and break the silence that keeps many children and teens locked in shame and fear rather than reaching out for help. Mental illness – depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorders – can become deadly. Suicide is the second leading cause of death of adolescents. Books can be a safe way to break the silence and save a life.

This week I want to introduce three books that confront several of the toughest traumas that affect our young people: a parent’s addiction, a parent’s suicide, and a young adult’s journey of overcoming addiction and depression.

All the Pieces All the Pieces, When a Loved One Dies from Substance Use, shows the grief felt by a child and also the comfort a caring adult can offer. What could be harder for a child to understand than a parent’s addiction and subsequent death from suicide? What could be harder to write an appropriate and hopeful book for that child, a book that is honest yet gently, realistic but also hopeful? Hallie Riggs as written the amazing picture book, All the Pieces, that guide a child to look at, remember, hold in one’s heart, all the pieces of a parent’s life that were wonderful, normal, funny and full of love. These pieces continue as comforting memories. Adriana Predoi’s illustrations are upbeat and with an imaginative style that invites the mix of memories past and present.


Why?Another picture book, Why? written by Melissa Allen Heath and illustrated by Frances Ives, presents a story for children who have experienced the loss of a parent to suicide. The images invite the reader and listener into this grieving child’s emotional world. Melissa’s simple, quiet words express the mother’s healing responses to her child’s fears and questions:

Oliver’s mommy says his daddy did not want to leave Oliver and his mommy. He died to get away from the sad, scary, and dark feelings. He died to stop the deep dark sadness … It is not Oliver’s fault. It is not Mommy’s fault… With the warmest of hugs, Oliver’s mommy says, ‘He loved you. That will never change.’”


The Coldest Winter I Ever SpentFor the young-adult reader, I recommend The Coldest Winter I Ever Spent by Ann Jacobus and published by Carolrhoda Lab. I quote from one reviewer: “The author presents the thoughts and inner dialogue of a teenage girl struggling with addiction and suicidality so skillfully. The depictions of hospice care and the feelings going along with caring for someone at end-of-life are also spot-on. This novel was absorbing, compelling, and beautifully written. I highly recommend it!” I too highly recommend this tough but excellent book – a page-turner with “heart” that will make you laugh, cry, and think.

Learn more at or @MaginationPress on Facebook. Magination Press is the combines the power of psychology and literature with words and images that make their books special.

Nancy Bo Flood

As a fish-brain surgeon or a rodeo poem wrangler, I have loved stories. I strongly believe that words – in poetry or prose – help heal our hearts and give us new eyes to see the world. I was first a research psychologist studying brain development at the University of Minnesota and London University before following my passion – writing for children. Learn more...