Feelings…nothing more than feelings. Whether the feeling is good, bad, or mutual, it’s probably covered in this list dedicated to books about emotions!
Love Is a Good Thing to Feel, by Barbara Joosse, illustrated by Jennifer Plecas (2008): “Love is a good thing to feel. It makes a party in your heart.” The pink-bedecked narrator describes all the different ways she expresses love to her family, friends, and stuffed bunny pal. To her, love is about sharing and being together, and you can love someone and still feel other things, like sadness and even anger, at the same time, but love will work it out. She also shares some scientific facts about hearts and sings a very preschool song about love. Preschoolers and early elementary students will identify with and enjoy this book.
Mouse Was Mad, by Linda Urban, illustrated by Henry Cole (2009): Mouse was mad, but every expression of his anger–from hopping to stomping to screaming–seemed pitiful in comparison to the other animals, and it ended up getting him in a mud puddle and even angrier until he was so angry that all he could do was stand stock-still…and he was good at that! In the end, his standing still and breathing deep not only won him the admiration of his animal friends, but it calmed him down so he could be happy again. This *might* spur a conversation about how ridiculous kids look when they’re throwing a temper tantrum…but I wouldn’t recommend bringing it out in the middle of one! 😉 Maybe better used as a teaching text for how to handle anger instead!
When Sophie Gets Angry–Really, Really Angry, by Molly Bang (1999): When Sophie gets angry, a lot of figurative language is necessary to describe how she feels. 😉 Sophie lets off steam by running into the woods by her home and crying until she is calmed by nature and time. Parents and teachers can use this book to discuss safe and appropriate behaviors when a child feels angry (since many will have to discuss how running outside may not be safe where they are) and to give children both an understanding that anger can be overwhelming and that there are ways to tame anger without hurting people. Recipient of a Caldecott Honor in 2000. (Sometimes I’m Bombaloo, by Rachel Vail and illustrated by Yumi Heo, is another title that also explores the feeling of losing control when someone is angry. The cool-down involves being sent into time-out–where she continues to have a fit at first–and saying sorry and restoring order with her mother afterward, so this offers an alternative to Sophie’s methods.)
The Grouchies, by Debbie Wagenbach, illustrated by Steve Mack (2010): In this rhyming story, a five-year-old boy wakes up with the grouchies (pictured as frowning storm clouds) harassing him and urging him to “grouch and grump at everyone” all day long. He takes their advice and has a really bad day. His parents come to tuck him into bed that night and give him tips about chasing away the grouchies. The illustrations are very cute, and, if you can get past the sloppy editing (line breaks ignore both the rhythm of the text and the rhyme scheme, and the word “throughout” is actually misspelled once), it really is a pretty decent book. Published by the American Psychological Association, it includes a somewhat lengthy note to parents that gives tips for helping a child get through grouchy moods.
Whoa Jealousy!, by Woodleigh Marx Hubbard (2002): Told as an extended metaphor of letting a variety of peculiar animals (embodying feelings of jealousy, envy, greed, and rivalry) in and the results, this book illustrates how allowing jealousy in your life can really mess things up. Speech bubbles give examples of the kind of thoughts and words that represent the feeling being described (like “Daniel is quicker” and “Wade has more toys” for envy), and the pictures are wild and crazy (kind of like life when these emotions get out of control!). A perfect book for teaching about metaphor and the destructiveness of these negative emotions, best for elementary aged kids.
Michael Rosen’s Sad Book, by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Quentin Blake (2004): This book is not about run-of-the-mill sadness; it was written about how the author copes with the sadness and depression and mixture of emotions that followed his son’s death. It is not a fun book at all, and it is definitely not for every child or every situation. That said, I believe the parent or guardian of a child dealing with grief might find this book useful for discussing the child’s emotions and working through the depression to find the hope expressed by the single lit candle found on the last page. As the adult, make sure you preview this book thoroughly before sharing it with a child to ensure that it is the right tool at the right time in the child’s recovery. (I did not read this book to GirlChild. She has not experienced this kind of grief–I hope she never does–and she is too young to comprehend such a strong, scary emotion in another.)
Jibberwillies at Night, by Rachel Vail, illustrated by Yumi Heo (2008): Written with the feelings after the September 11th attacks in New York City in mind, this book by the author and illustrator of Sometimes I’m Bombaloo tells about a happy-go-lucky girl (Katie Honors, the same girl as in their previous collaboration) who sometimes is afraid at night. Her fears manifest as jibberwillies (which actually don’t look scary and didn’t frighten GirlChild when we read this to her), and she and her mother work together to get rid of them when they come (by catching them in a bucket and throwing them out the window). For any child who relies on monster spray or parents checking under the bed or in the closet, this might provide a feeling of solidarity (and another method for getting rid of the fear).
A Is for Angry: An Animal and Adjective Alphabet, by Sandra Boynton (1987): Any book from Sandra Boynton is going to be just a little bit off from average, and this alphabet book is no exception. From “A is for ANGRY” (and the ant and anteater) to “O is for OUTRAGED” (with an appropriately illustrated oppossum), this “Z is for ZOO” animal alphabet will expand children’s vocabulary for both animals and words to describe their feelings, and getting a break from “mad,” “sad,” and “happy” is totally worth trying to explain what “vain” means to a preschooler!
My Many Colored Days, by Dr. Seuss, paintings by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher (1996): Rhyming text and illustrations create both color and animal metaphors for different moods or emotions children might feel. Each page includes a brief amount of text explaining the emotion with font differences that give the text some elements of concrete poetry. Available in both regular picture book and board book formats, this is a great book to share with infants up to early elementary (and to use to help teach metaphors to elementary students).
Yesterday I Had the Blues, by Jeron Ashford Frame, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie (2003): Another book that compares emotions to colors, this book is more of a loose description of what each member of the narrator’s family does and feels when in a certain color mood. Written under the inspiration of a blues song on the radio, the author uses sentence fragments and informal speech patterns to convey the mood. The best part (other than the fun art) is that the book ends with the statement that, no matter what kind of day it is, it’s okay, because having a loving family “makes you feel like it’s all golden.” Named Nick Jr. Family Magazine Best Book of the Year. The illustrator has twice received the Coretta Scott King award for his art.
On Monday When It Rained, by Cherryl Kachenmeister, photographs by Tom Berthiaume (1989): Using black and white photographs of one boy, this book tells about the different moods he feels when certain things happen on each day of the week. Good for helping small children learn to read facial expressions and body language!
How Are You Peeling?: Foods with Moods, by Saxton Freymann and Joost Elffers (1999): Mutant fruits and vegetables (carved with an Exacto knife and embellished with beet juice and black-eyed peas for eyes) illustrate this somewhat bizarre book that asks children about their moods and feelings. Just one of the several books by this pair featuring oddly expressive produce!
Feelings are notoriously hard for children (and many adults!) to verbalize, and the reliance on metaphors in so many of these books makes the process a little more accessible to many small ones. Sometimes just giving a feeling a name makes it more manageable–whether that feeling is good or bad, sometimes it can be overwhelming!–and these books are a great way to give kids that ability. Please feel free to share in the comments about any other books about feelings your family or classroom loves!