CM . . .
. Volume XX Number 16. . . .December 20, 2013
Healing the Bruises.
Lori Morgan. Illustrated by Kathy Kaulbach.
Halifax, NS: Formac, 2013.
32 pp., hardcover, $16.95.
Family violence-Juvenile fiction.
Grades 2-4 / Ages 7-9.
Review by Gregory Bryan.
All my life my parents fought. I thought fighting was normal.
Sometimes my dad pushed or hit my mom. She would hide the bruises with make-up or long-sleeves.
After a fight, Dad would leave our house.
Those nights Mom slept with me. We were both scared.
Healing the Bruises is a full colour graphic novel by Lori Morgan and Kathy Kaulbach. The book focuses upon the experiences of Julia, a young girl whose mother is a victim of domestic violence. Together with her mother, Julia moves to a shelter and then to a new apartment in order to escape to a safe new location. Although the subject matter is complex and troublesome, the story is presented in terms that can be understood by young readers.
Healing the Bruises is presented from the first person perspective of Julia. She feels ashamed to tell people about her father's violent bad temper. Because her mind is so occupied with the difficulties of her home life, she gets into trouble at school. She feels as if she carries the weight of the world upon her slender young shoulders.
The author, Lori Morgan is a Child and Youth Counsellor at Alice Housing, a not-for-profit Halifax organisation that provides housing, support, and counselling for women and children who are leaving domestic violence situations. Although the story is fictional, it has been created with knowledge obtained through Morgan's work with families escaping abusive situations.
Kathy Kaulbach's watercolour illustrations were generally constructed with a muted or dark palette. These colour choices reflect and magnify the sombre mood of the text. Some of the illustrations are whole page whereas, in other instances, the page has been divided into several small panels.
Morgan and Kaulbach do a good job of capturing some of the complexities of domestic violence situations. Although Julia and her mother enjoy the safety of their new location, Julia misses her best friend, Keisha. She also misses her father. Kaulbach portrays a photograph of her father beside Julia's bed. There can be no easy solution to domestic violence, but this book will help children to recognise that help can be provided. Alice Housing's Healing the Bruises programme encourages children who are witnesses to (and/or victims of) domestic violence to "process and overcome their experiences." The programme no doubt does much good for those children involved. Although this book is not likely to have wide appeal, it will be of interest and benefit to families in difficult situations. The protagonist, Julia, finds that she is not the only one to have a violent father. Through the support of others, she finds also that is she is not alone and that she need not attempt to deal with her problems on her own. These messages might be of great value to some young readers.
Dr. Gregory Bryan is a member of the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, MB.
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