Educator Book Reviews

Educator Book Review: Healing the Bruises

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Healing the Bruises
Written by Lori Morgan
Illustrated by Kathy Kaulbach
Published by Lorimer
Category: Family Conflict, Graphic Novel, Youth Fiction

Reviewed by Aleksandra Baran,
Grade 7 Teacher, Toronto Catholic District School Board

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Healing the Bruises is a colourful, graphic novel based on an experience of a woman and her daughter who were helped by Alice Housing, a non-profit organization that helps women and children who are leaving domestic violence situations. The novel follows the main characters, 12-year-old Julia and her mother through a journey of recovery from domestic abuse. It is written from the first person perspective of Julia, who recalls the family’s ordeal and the subsequent leaving behind of her father, friends, and moving to a second stage home.

This novel deals with the complex issue of domestic violence yet it would be comprehensible for readers aged 8-14 because it is narrated by a child with whom readers can connect. Healing the Bruises could be very helpful for readers who are dealing with the same issues as Julia. Since the novel ends with a peaceful and positive resolution for Julia and her mother, it demonstrates that situations of domestic violence can end positively, especially with the help of others and organizations. This is important because like Julia, victims of abuse, especially children, can often feel hopeless about their plight. They might also feel depressed, isolated, and fall behind in school because they do not see a favourable solution to their situation. The book’s positive outcome might encourage readers who relate to Julia, to come forward and share their feelings and experiences. For young readers who are not directly affected by domestic violence, but have friends who are, this book should help them better understand that friend’s feelings.

Healing the Bruises can also be used when teaching about topics such as families, family structure, relationships, and communication within families. Students will learn that each family structure is unique and that plays an important role in one’s outlook in life. In teaching this book, educators have to emphasize that even though families are different, each one is valuable and should be respected. Furthermore, the novel demonstrates that it is possible for relationships within the family to overcome various challenges, such as domestic abuse.

Although, Julia’s father abused her mom, she is still able to openly continue her relationship with him—a complex, realistic scenario, and possibly ‘hot- button topic’ for discussion—it can encourage student exploration of the importance of family communication. A working family unit is unable to exist without open and clear communication. Throughout the novel, all the characters are encouraged to share their feelings in order to maintain their family and friend relationships. In addition, Julia’s mother is able to communicate with her husband in order to help Julia to continue her relationship with her father in spite of his behaviour toward his wife.

I recommend Healing the Bruises because it deals with the complex topic of domestic violence about which young readers need to be educated. This topic is quite difficult to understand for children who are the indirect victims of abuse. Yet, the topic is presented in such a way that it is understandable for young readers. Colourful and realistic images of this novel show the feelings of the characters, especially Julia. The readers have insight into her emotions and struggles concerning her family situation. Since the novel is a story of Julia’s journey, the readers will feel like they are accompanying her. I believe readers will experience a heart-warming feeling when Julia reaches the end of her journey and becomes a cheerful child who is able to see her father again. This novel is not intended to be viewed as a model of how situations of domestic violence can be resolved. It does, however, appropriately introduce the complex issue of domestic violence to young readers, as well as available resources. The graphic novel presents Julia’s story as an example where those experiencing domestic abuse can reach a peaceful and positive resolution.

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