March 25, 2017

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How Do You Feel Today?: Great Books about Emotions

Told with sensitivity, perception, and heartwarming humor, these recent picture books treat a range of experiences and feelings that are all part of a youngster’s everyday world. Share them with children to build empathy for others, foster self-awareness, and invite discussion about their own emotional lives.

Emotions1Cheer Up, Mouse! By Jed Henry. illus. by author. Houghton Mifflin. 2013. RTE $12.99. ISBN 978-0-547-68107-8; ebook $12.99. ISBN 978-0-547-72425-6.
PreS-Gr 2–Mouse is feeling blue, and his woodland friends are determined to make him smile: a black bird takes him soaring into the air (“Flap and flutter, dip and dive”), a frog swabs his tears away in the pond (“Splash and paddle, wash and wade”), and a mole offers the security of solid ground (“Dig and shovel, root and tunnel”). The lyrical narrative hums with rhythmic alliteration and the sweetly expressive paintings accentuate each and every emotion, particularly when a gentle squirrel finally fathoms just what melancholy Mouse requires—a hug.

Emotions2Crankenstein. By Samantha Berger. illus. by Dan Santat. Little, Brown. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-316-12656-4; ebook $6.99. ISBN 978-0-316-23569-3.
K-Gr 2–Whenever things don’t go his way—bedtime beckons too early, a Popsicle melts before eating, or a favorite toy breaks—a seemingly ordinary boy transforms into Crankenstein. With pickle-green skin, bulging eyes, and fist-clenching frustration (“MEHHRRRR!”), this monster “is some pretty scary business, all right.” It takes a face-to-face meeting with an equally crabby cohort at the playground for both children to have a shared moment of recognition and shake off their grouchiness with a laugh…until the next time Crankenstein emerges. An ideal anecdote to grouchiness, the book’s tongue-in-cheek text, over-the-top artwork, and droll details make it a read-again must.

Emotions3The Dark. By Lemony Snicket. illus. by Jon Klassen. Little, Brown. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-316-18748-0; ebook $9.99. ISBN 978-0-316-24738-2.
PreS-Gr 2–A pajama-clad youngster reluctantly shares his creaky old house with the dark, which spends most of its time hidden away in the closet, sitting behind the shower curtain, or holed up in the basement. However, when Laszlo’s nightlight burns out one evening and the dark drops into his room for a visit, the boy must confront his greatest fear. Atmospheric illustrations and a well-paced narrative tackle a common childhood concern with shiver-generating suspense, tender humor, and a reassuring resolution. Perfect for alleviating nighttime terrors.

Emotions4The Great Big Book of Feelings. By Mary Hoffman. illus. by Ros Asquith. Frances Lincoln. 2013. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-1-84780-281-1.
PreS-Gr 3–Single- and double-page entries showcase common emotions with crystal-clear text, kid-savvy examples, and useful strategies for navigating life’s day-to-day ups and downs. Depicting a multicultural array of babies, youngsters, grown-ups, and the same tiger-striped cat on every spread, charming cartoons keep the tone light (even when portraying angry or upset faces) and remind readers that everyone experiences similar sentiments. Sensitive to, respectful of, and spot-on for its audience, this accessible volume will fortify mood-discussion vocabularies, self-awareness, and empathy.

Emotions5How Do Dinosaurs Say I’m Mad? By Jane Yolen. illus. by Mark Teague. Scholastic/Blue Sky. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-545-14315-8.
PreS-Gr 2–From sullen pouting to toy-tossing tantrums, Yolen and Teague’s defiant—and very childlike—dinosaurs exhibit many of the behaviors associated with anger. The lighthearted text outlines common causes for outbursts, including being told “No!” or rebelling against naptime, before timeouts and calming breathes result in apologies, cleans ups, and hugs all around. Identified by species and presented in glorious giant-size, the critters’ humorously exaggerated body language and facial expressions ring true with readers to illicit giggles and encourage self-awareness.

Emotions6Maya Was Grumpy. By Courtney Pippin-Mathur. illus. by author. Flashlight. 2013. Tr $16.95. ISBN 978-1-9362611-3-0.
Pres-Gr 3–A young girl is in a “crispy, cranky, grumpy, grouchy mood” and nothing can shake her out of it. As her bad temper spreads, so does her unruly mass of honey-colored hair, and it seems that both will take over the household, until resourceful Gramma uses silliness to lift the child’s spirits and scowls are gradually transformed into smiles. Filled with bright colors and amusing details, the frothy mixed-media artwork makes Maya’s bearishness entertainingly bearable and the satisfying resolution all the sweeter.

Emotions7My Blue Is Happy. By Jessica Young. illus. by Catia Chien. Candlewick. 2013. Tr $15.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-5125-1.
Gr 1-3–Although her sister thinks “that blue is sad/Like a lonely song,” a young girl has her own way of associating emotions with colors: “my blue is happy/Like my favorite jeans/And a splash in the pool on a hot day.” And while Mom calls yellow “cheery,” the narrator’s yellow is “…worried/Like a wilting flower/And a butterfly caught in a net.” A boldly brush-stroked painting accompanies each observation, limning the appropriate mood and hue. The lyrical metaphors and lovely images provide readers with a fresh and creative way to explore and express their feelings.

Emotions8No Fits, Nilson! By Zachariah OHora. illus. by author. Dial. 2013. RTE $16.99. ISBN 978-0-8037-3852-2.
PreS-Gr 1–Amelia’s best buddy Nilson—an enormous, beret-wearing, turquoise-blue gorilla—is prone to throwing temper tantrums, and she tries to help him keep his cool while they are out running errands with her mom. However, when they make a much-anticipated stop at the ice-cream truck on the way home—and Amelia’s favorite flavor is all gone—it’s the little girl who needs Nilson to do a bit of calming down. Fun retro artwork, just-right humor, and a revelation at story’s end (Nilson is a stuffed toy) make for a reader-grabbing tale.

Emotions9Theo’s Mood. By Maryann Cocca-Leffler. illus. by author. Albert Whitman. 2013. Tr $15.99. ISBN 978-0-8075-7778-3.
PreS-Gr 1–It’s Mood Monday at school.When Theo announces that he has a new baby sister, his teacher asks him how he’s feeling and he admits that he isn’t sure. Several classmates impart their own “mood news” to help him understand his state of mind: Eric is happy about a new bike, Lily is jealous of her sister, and other students feel afraid, sad, mad, and proud. Theo realizes that he is experiencing all of these emotions, each part and parcel of being a big brother. Cocca-Leffler’s concrete examples and vivacious illustrations clearly communicate a wide range of feelings, while also assuring readers that conflicting emotions are perfectly natural.

Emotions10When I Feel Worried. By Cornelia Maude Spelman. illus. by Kathy Parkinson. Albert Whitman. 2013. Tr $15.99. ISBN 978-0-8075-8893-2.
PreS-K–A huggable young guinea pig describes scenarios that make her worried, realizes that everyone gets this feeling sometimes, and lists ways to make it go away (being listened to and held, talking about happy things, getting outdoors, and more). Honest, upbeat, and endearing, the color-saturated artwork and straightforward narrative provide simple methods to deal with that “wobbly” feeling along with welcome reassurance that it won’t last forever.

Emotions11When Lions Roar. By Robie H. Harris. illus. by Chris Raschka. Scholastic/Orchard. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-545-11283-3.
PreS-Gr 2–Terrified by startling noises—bellowing zoo animals, booming thunder, blaring sirens, hollering parents—a youngster reacts by crouching down, shutting eyes, and shouting, “Scary! Go away!” Afterward, the quiet returns, allowing the child to take note of more pleasant things—“The sun is out./A flower blooms./…A mommy sings…/A daddy dances…”—and notice that “The scary is gone.” Simple text and sinuous soft-colored artwork depict events and emotions with understanding and provide an empowering strategy for conquering fear.

Joy Fleishhacker About Joy Fleishhacker

Joy Fleishhacker is a librarian, former SLJ staffer, and freelance editor and writer who works at the Pikes Peak Library District in southern Colorado.

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