PPBF: A Terrible Thing Happened

Today's a landmark day for me, the one-year anniversary of the car collision that left me broken, bruised and terribly traumatized.
Read how I was feeling on Day 14 post-collision {here}.
I have made a lot of discoveries on my road to recovery.
And abundant blessings in the burden have found me.
I've seen some very dark and incredibly difficult days.
It was, indeed, a terrible thing.
But, with the help, support and prayers 
of family and friends, I survived.
And, in twenty days, we'll go to court so I can share 
my Victim Impact Statement and put the case to rest.
Then I can continue to recover, restore, heal, and move on.

That being said, I've got a meaningful connection to my PPBF pick.

Title: A Terrible Thing Happened
Author: Margaret M. Holmes
Illustrator: Cary Pillo
Publisher: Magination Press (1st edition)
Date: February 2000
Suitable for: ages 4 and up
Realistic Fiction
Themes: trauma, feelings, empathy
Brief Synopsis: A terrible thing happens to Sherman. Because he does not like feeling afraid, he does his best to ignore it, which works at first. Eventually, however, his feelings become physically symptomatic and Sherman has to come to terms with what he saw and learn how to move through his trauma (and ultimately past it) in a healthy way.
Opening page: Sherman Smith saw the most terrible thing. He was very upset. It really scared Sherman to see such a terrible thing.

Read a review on Seven Ponds blog {here}.

Let your students predict what happened to Sherman. Explore how they think he feels. Encourage them to write about how they'd help Sherman. Find out what they'd need if they were walking in Sherman's shoes.

Enjoy Now Is The Start, a hopeful ballad 
about recovering and starting over.

Why I like this book: The author never tells her readers exactly what it is that Sherman saw, so all we know is that it was something terrible. The beauty of that is its boundless discussion possibilities. So many of our children today experience trauma or anxiety as a result of the terrible things they have to handle, so I think they'll readily connect to and relate with Sherman and his struggles.

Sometimes it's something that has happened to them personally; other times it's something vicarious that they've seen on television. Regardless, because we can't unsee things, we must process those events so that they don't become rotting garbage in our heads. Sherman goes through the same adverse reactions that can happen to kids under extreme anxiety or stress - loss of appetite, stomach aches, difficulty sleeping. Uncomfortable or unresolved feelings can show up become somatic and cause unfavorable physical symptoms or behavioral acting out. 

Then he goes to see a counselor, who gives him some ideas of things to try that might help him through the trauma. They tried thinking about the feelings, talking about the feelings, playing, and drawing out the feelings. Eventually, Sherman gets to the root of his anxiety and he's able to journey through it with his counselor, Ms. Maple. She also reassures Sherman that it wasn't his fault. When his anger starts to go away, he feels stronger and can be a happier and healthier he.

Just yesterday, I set up Jenga on my floor and played several rounds with students that I see. The game serves as such a powerful metaphor of things that can weaken us and leave holes in our hearts and souls. Once the tower falls, we talk about the safe people and success strategies that help us if/when things in our life starts to crumble. As we talk, we build the game back up and restore it to its original strength.

This book is a school counselor's dream, but its text can also serve as a great teaching tool for teachers, guardians and parents alike since it's got built-in strategies for recovering from traumatic events. Additionally, there is an Afterward for caregivers offering helpful suggestions for working with traumatized children.

As always, if you suspect abuse or neglect, you must follow your state's guidelines for reporting. In Texas, for example, school personnel are mandatory reporters, so if Ms. Maple determines that what Sherman saw put him in danger of neglect or abuse, then she must report the incident to Child Protective Services.

To check in with other blog authors and their PPBF selections, 
go to Susanna Leonard Hill's blog next. Happy reading!


  1. Thanks, Barbara! Enjoy the blessings of your day!

  2. I loved your use of the Jenga game to accompany discussion of the book. We are all weakened and strengthened at different times.

  3. Wow, this is a powerful review. I recognized that this might be a Magination Press book. Haven't seen it, but will check it out. I liked how you shared your own trauma and have used your own experience to work with kids. The Jenga game is a great metaphor. You and I have a lot in common -- I've been through a lot trauma in my life. I hope you can find closure after you make your victim impact statement! Again, thank you for sharing.

  4. Glad to hear you will soon be on the next phase of your own road to recovery. Thanks for sharing this book, will definitely look for it.

  5. I remember you blogging about the accident. Hard to believe a whole year has passed! I am so glad that you will soon have closure. I also love the way that you've incorporated the lesson into a game of Jenga. This sounds like a great book. I'm going to look for a copy for sure. thanks for the wonderful post....

  6. Thanks for sharing both the book and your personal terrible thing. Wishing you well and we do need books addressing seeing bad stuff, for kids.

  7. Looks like a good book to get kids talking, which, of course, is so important. I love the song, too! Very catchy and upbeat.

  8. Thank you to all of you for your reflections, feedback, and kind words. Yesterday was trying for me, for sure, but my husband coming to school to pick me up from school (with a bouquet of flowers in hand!!) coupled with hugs and words of affirmation and joy helped me through what could have been a very difficult day. Blessings!

  9. Wow. A year. I hope that you feel stronger every day. This sounds like a great book. Kids lives seem to be filled with trauma these days. It comes at them from so many directions. Thanks for sharing the book and the ideas and the lovely uplifting video.

  10. Thanks for sharing this book and your own experience. I like that you said it's never said what he sees, so it may be used for many different situations. Also, very happy to see your not that the day ended on a good note.


I really enjoy hearing from my readers; thanks for sharing your reflections with us!

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