Books on sensitive subjects are not meant to take the place of counseling by parents, teachers, clergy, psychologists or others. Yet they can act as a helpful vehicle for expressing feelings and fears. The following are recommended by children's book specialists to help adults and youngsters approach such subjects as divorce, death, adoption, the new baby, fears, disabilities, AIDS, teen-age suicide, sex and puberty.
"Close to the Edge" by Gloria D. Miklowitz (Dell, paperback: $2.50. Recommended ages: 13 and over).
A teen-age girl who has everything from her parents but love contemplates suicide. Then a close friend does kill herself. She realizes the futility of suicide and comes to terms with her life.
"About David" by Susan Beth Pfeffer (Dell, paperback: $2.75. Recommended ages: 13 and over).
This is a novel about a 17-year-old boy who murders his parents and commits suicide. His friend, Lynn, learns to deal with the pain and grief of these senseless deaths.
"My Brother Is Afraid of Just About Everything" by Lois Osborn, pictures by Jennie Williams (Albert Whitman & Co., hardcover: $10.25. Recommended ages: 4 to 7).
The book is narrated by an older boy who explains how his little brother is afraid of everything: thunderstorms, men with beards, going down the drain with the bath water, pictures of bats and more. However, the author makes her point--that everyone is afraid of something--when a shaggy dog comes along and the older brother is the one who's afraid.
"The Bad Dream" by Jim Aylesworth, illustrations by Judith Friedman (Albert Whitman & Co., hardcover: $10.25. Recommended ages: 3 1/2 to 6).
A young boy falls out of bed after experiencing a nightmare. His parents reassure him that he's safe, that dreams are not real and will not hurt him. He goes back to sleep feeling peaceful and happy.
"About Dying" (An Open Family Book for Parents and Children Together) by Sara Bonnett Stein, photography by Dick Frank (Walker & Co., hardcover: $10.95. Recommended ages: 2 1/2 and over).
"About Dying" is written with two texts: One, with large black-and-white photographs, is written in simple language and is for the child; the other is a resource text for adults to help them answer questions about death.
"Lifetimes: The Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children" by Bryan Mellonie and Robert Ingpen (Bantam Books, paperback: $7.95. Recommended ages: 4 to 8).
Death is illustrated here in a somewhat metaphysical way. With flowers, newly laid eggs in a nest, vegetables, butterflies, fish and people, the author explains that each living thing has its own special lifetime.
"Nadia the Willful" by Sue Alexander, pictures by Lloyd Bloom (Pantheon Books, hardcover: $12.95. Recommended ages: 4 to 8).
With beautiful illustrations, the author tells the story of Nadia, who has a temper "as fiery as the desert sun." When her older brother, Hamed, does not return from an outing, their father declares that no one shall speak the boy's name again. Nadia persuades her father that the only way to overcome their pain is by remembering Hamed and their love for him.
"Adoption Is for Always" by Linda Walvoord Girard, illustrated by Judith Friedman (Albert Whitman & Co., hardcover: $10.25. Recommended ages: 4 to 8).
Celia feels anger and confusion when she realizes that her adoptive parents are not her birth parents. Celia learns how special she is, that there was never anything wrong with her and that she and her adoptive parents will always be a family.
"The Chosen Baby" by Valentina P. Wasson, illustrated by Glo Coalson (J. B. Lippincott Co., hardcover: $9.95. Recommended ages: 4 to 6).
This updated 1939 classic focuses on Martha and James Brown's joy when they adopt Peter, and later a sister for Peter, through an adoption agency.
"Being Adopted" by Maxine B. Rosenberg, photographs by George Ancona (Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books, hardcover: $10.25. Recommended ages: 4 to 8).
Seven-year-old Rebecca, 10-year-old Andrei and 8-year-old Karin were adopted. They have racial and cultural roots different from those of their adoptive families. The children tell their personal stories and how they feel as if they "stand out," sometimes even at home in this nonfiction work. Factual information on adoption is included.
The New Baby
"A Baby Sister for Frances" by Russell Hoban, pictures by Lillian Hoban (Harper & Row, paperback: $2.95. Recommended ages: 3 to 8).
A badger named Frances has a new baby sister. Frances feels that she's not loved anymore so she "runs away" and hides under the dining room table. While in hiding, she overhears her parents saying how lonely they are for her. Frances discovers she's wanted after all.
"The New Baby at Your House" by Joanna Cole, photographs by H. Hammid (William Morrow, paperback: $4.95. Recommended ages: 3 to 6).