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Welcome back to Picture Book Therapy Thursday! This month we are focusing on books that can be used to help prevent child abuse or for children who have experienced abuse. Our first guest is the incredible Jayneen Sanders.

Jayneen Sanders is an experienced author, teacher, mother of three and a passionate advocate for empowering children through discussions on social and emotional issues, respectful relationships and personal body safety. For more information about Jayneen Sanders and her work go to

Jayneen does so much incredible work for children. For this interview, we focus in on her book "Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept".

"Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept" is a beautifully illustrated children's picture book that sensitively broaches the subject of keeping children safe from inappropriate touch.

We teach water and road safety, but how do we teach Body Safety to young children in a way that is neither frightening nor confronting?

This book is an invaluable tool for parents, caregivers, teachers and healthcare professionals to broach the subject of safe and unsafe touch in a non-threatening and age-appropriate way.

April is Child Abuse Awareness Month so we are focusing on books that could be used to help prevent child abuse or with children who have been abused. Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept is a great fit for that. What inspired you to write that story?

When I was a young teacher, I came across a book called Keeping Children Safe by Dr Freda Briggs. I decided, when I had children, I would teach them these lessons in body safety. Many years later after my three daughters were born, I was on my children’s school council. I asked if we could teach body safety at the school and was constantly put to the bottom of the agenda. So, I decided to use my writing skills (as by then I was a children’s book author) to write a book so people would take notice of this issue of child sexual abuse. And that is how Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept was born.

Do you have a scene or a sentence in the book that is your favourite?

Probably the last page where little Sir Alfred is snuggled up in his bed and feels safe and warm. All children just want to feel heard and feel safe. By the way, I absolutely love the illustrations by Craig Smith. I was so fortunate that he agreed to illustrate this book.

Why do you think this book is important for kids to have on the shelves?

Because it broaches the subject of sexual abuse in an age-appropriate and non-threatening way. It is written as a fairy tale, set in a faraway land; so, for a child who may have been abused it adds distance to their own situation and yet they identify with Alfred and how he is feeling. For a child who has not been abused, it is just another story but the important message of never keeping unsafe secrets is never forgotten.

How do you think parents, teachers, or counselors could use Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept to engage in deeper conversations with kids?

Hopefully they take the time to unpack it slowly with the kids in their care and use the Discussion Questions and lesson plans provided. They also use the book and many of my other resources to have open and ongoing conversations with kids about unsafe secrets and inappropriate touch.

Do you have any advice for authors who want to write about tough topics for kids?

Be clear about your message and what you want children to ultimately understand and come away with. Make sure you write in a voice that children understand and relate to.

You have many other picture books about tough topics. Tell us about a few of your favorites.

Oh yes! I have lots! ☺ I really love Let’s Talk About Body Boundaries, Consent and Respect because it covers these important topics. I also love Talking About Feelings because it gives kids a voice and the vocabulary to talk about their emotions, and another favourite is Hope because it helps kids who are in domestic violence homes to understand that an adult’s anger is never ever their fault.

Do you have any upcoming projects you would like to share?

I have just released Little Big Chats which is a series of 12 books for kids 2 to 6. Each book covers ‘tricky’ topics such as consent, body safety, gender equality and social and emotional intelligence. The books are illustrated by good friend Cherie Zamazing and feature a diverse range of characters. We also have lots of free posters and resources on our website.

Where can we connect with you online to follow your work?

Our website is

FB Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept and also Educate2empower Publishing.

Instagram @jayneensandersauthor @educate2empower

Educate2empower Publishing has some wonderful resources for parents, teachers, and counselors! Check out their video "My Body Safety Rules" which could be used in conjunction with Jayneen's book.

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Happy Picture Book Therapy Thursday friends! Tomorrow is the first day of April and Child Abuse Awareness month. For the month of April, I am focusing in specifically on picture books that deal with issues around child abuse, domestic violence, and trauma.

I'm kicking off this series by doing the thing I find terribly awkward-- self promotion!

During the month of April, I am running a Kickstarter to self-publish my picture book LENA & THE DRAGON!

This post has everything: cute therapist, winner from a giveaway, vulnerability, picture books on tough topics, AND a book trailer! Keep reading to find out more.

First, CONGRATS to our winner from last week's giveaway, Jenna Johnson! You've won a copy of "IT WILL BE OK" by Lisa Katzenberger.

So, without further ado, here's a bit more about me.

Who's the girl behind the blog?

I am an active member of both SCBWI and Julie Hedlund’s 12x12 Picture Book Challenge as well as a scholarship alumni of Highlights Foundation and a winner of the 2022 Kid's Choice Kid Lit Writing Contest. I live in Longview, TX with my husband, daughter, and pets. When I’m not writing, I work as a therapist and social worker. You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @bookshelfofbeth.

What inspired Lena & the Dragon?

Lena & the Dragon came about from two places: my childhood and my job. I had just finished a counseling session with a client, and suddenly this story popped into my head. I’d never had any real desire to write a picture book, but this girl and her dragon just wouldn’t let me be until her story was out. Many of my clients experienced trauma during their childhood, or are currently working through trauma as a child. Unfortunately, I was abused as a child. Much like Lena, I tried to ignore it in hopes it would just go away. As an adult, I am finally able to process all those emotions and trauma. Lena & The Dragon is another form of that processing.

What was the process like from inspiration to publication?

After the initial inspiration and writing the first draft, I jumped the gun and tried to query right away. I knew nothing about the publishing or writing world and got several form rejections. However, I did know that I wanted this story in the hands of kids, so I decided to buckle down and learn more. I had a wonderful critique done by Jennifer Rees through Reedsy that really shaped up my story and allowed me to make it shine. I joined the writing community on Twitter, took some online classes, and found critique partners. Nearly a year later, I finally felt that the manuscript was complete.

During all of this, I realized that the market for a picture book on childhood trauma is slim. I was very passionate about seeing this book out in the world for children to relate to and clinicians to have as a tool. I chose to take on the task of self-publishing. I found Rodrigo and his incredible illustrative talent, and knew right away he was the one to partner with me in bringing Lena & the Dragon to life.

My favorite scene to write:

In the story, Lena eventually comes forward and opens up about her trauma with her parents. She joins a therapy group of children who have experienced trauma. When she walks into the group meeting, she immediately sees a room full of kids and dragons– in all shapes, sizes, and colors. This is my favorite scene: that realization that she isn’t alone and all the diversity that comes with that. I can’t wait to see what Rodrigo does with this!

Why is this book important for kids to have on the shelves?

Trauma isn't something we like to talk about because it seems like a scary thing. The reality is most kids will experience at least one type of trauma before their 18. Unfortunately, with the recent pandemic, our children now have all experienced a collective trauma. This book can help kids make sense of the things they're feeling.

How can parents, teachers, or counselors could use Lena & the Dragon to engage in deeper conversations with kids?

This book was written specifically with the goal of being a tool that parents, teachers, and counselors could use to engage in what could potentially be an awkward and uncomfortable conversation with kids-- but an important one. By discussing how Lena acts, how the dragon acts, what trauma is the discussion should come about organically. Additionally, I am working on a companion guide with a few worksheets, discussion prompts, and coloring sheets.

What comes next in this project?

In order to fund the publication of this project, I am running a Kickstarter campaign for the month of April (Child Abuse Prevention Month). By raising the initial funds for the publication of the book, I will be able to sell the book at cost to print. This will mean the book can get into the hands of more kids who need it! For every 10 books sold, I will donate 1 to a nonprofit, child care center, school, children’s advocacy center, or other organization that could utilize the book.

When we meet our goal (just going to speak it into existence here), Rodrigo will complete the illustrations and book design. We have a target date of December 2022 for the publication.

You can help by pre-ordering your book through the Kickstarter campaign, or supporting the Kickstarter to help bring this book to life!

To help spread the word about Lena & the Dragon, I am hosting an ART CONTEST later this month! Be sure to check back April 4th for more details.

For now, check out the book trailer below!

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Updated: Mar 25, 2022

Lisa Katzenberger joins us on the blog today to discuss her picture book "It Will Be OK: A Story of Empathy, Kindness, and Friendship". This is a beautifully illustrated, heartwarming book that will appeal to many readers!

Lisa Katzenberger is the author of IT WILL BE OK: A STORY OF EMPATHY, KINDNESS, AND FRIENDSHIP (Sourcebooks 2021) and NATIONAL REGULAR AVERAGE ORDINARY DAY (Penguin Workshop 2020). She is an instructor at The Writing Barn, a mom to eleven-year-old twins, and serves on the Board of Trustees of her public library in suburban Chicago. Visit Lisa online at

It Will Be OK is a sweet, simple picture book about how to help a worried friend. Discover the power of listening and gain insight into dealing with anxiety and having empathy. Sometimes the best thing we can do for our loved ones is to be present for as long as they need us.

Giraffe and Zebra meet every day under their favorite tree to walk to the watering hole. But today, Giraffe isn't there Where could he be? Zebra spots him hiding in the tree; Giraffe has seen a spider and is scared silly. Zebra patiently talks to Giraffe and does the very best thing: supports Giraffe for as long as Giraffe needs it.

What inspired you to write It Will Be OK?

I saw this photo as a writing prompt on Twitter. It’s totally photoshopped, but it made me wonder what would make a giraffe climb a tree. I instantly thought “Oh, it saw a spider” but then I thought that was silly—why would a big, strong giraffe be scared of a small little spider? But then I acknowledged that sometimes I’m afraid of things that may appear very small, but feel big and overwhelming. And the story blossomed from there.

We all have times where we are this giraffe!

What was the process like from inspiration to getting published?

Long! I wrote my first draft in January of 2017. I brought an early version to an SCBWI pitch conference where we could read the first page of our manuscript to an editor. I was seated with Kelly Barrales-Saylor from Sourcebooks Kids and she liked the story, but gave me feedback on how to improve it. I worked on a revision (on and off) for a couple years, then finally submitted Version 40 to Kelly and she loved it!

Version 40! That's true dedication. I'm sure it changed so much from that original draft. Do you have a scene or sentence in the final version of the book that was your favorite to write?

In the beginning of IT WILL BE OK, Giraffe’s friend Zebra finds him hiding up in a tree and encourages him to come down. Zebra gives all the reasons why Giraffe shouldn’t be scared of the spider. Then I love this scene: “Giraffe expected Zebra to leave. But Zebra waited. And waited some more.” Zebra is being such a good friend, just waiting by Giraffe’s side as he works through his emotions and comes down from the tree on his own terms. I think it shows kids that we don’t need to have all the answers, but we can respect the space our friends may need to process their emotions.

Even as adults, we need to know that it's okay to give people space to feel! Why do you think these books are important for kids to have on the shelves?

I think books about Social Emotional Learning topics are so important for kids to have access to, as learning to identify and name our emotions at a young age can lay the foundation for strong emotional health. Talking about mental health topics like anxiety (instead of shying away from them like I did during my childhood) makes it easier for kids to get help and understand that all their feelings are valid and normal.

You also have an Educator Guide for this book. How do you think parents, teachers, or counselors could use your book and the guide to engage in deeper conversations with kids?

I think just having a conversation about emotions and our mental health can go a long way. For a child to know that an adult in their life wants to talk about feelings can be a big step to opening up ongoing conversations about emotions. Simply asking a child “how are you feeling?” “what do you need?” or “how can I help you?” can go so far in establishing trust and encouraging a child to open up about what’s on their mind and in their heart. The Educator’s Guide has discussion topics to help start a discussion and other fun activities to keep the conversation going.

Do you have any advice for authors who want to write about tough topics for kids?

Do it! Think about what topics or themes you felt like you wished you could have read when you were a child. Be honest, and don’t feel like you need to sugar coat things for kids to understand them. Kids are strong and you could write the story that makes a difference in a child’s life!

Thank you so much Lisa for taking the time to share with us, and I have no doubt this story will make a difference in the lives of many children.

Lisa has generously donated a copy of It Will Be Okay as a giveaway to one of our readers! Leave a comment here on the blog to enter. Entries will close March 30th and winner will be announced here on the blog March 31st!

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