Children often have feelings that are overwhelming; no one will listen when there is something spooky in the dark or the moving van arrives to carry away a best friend. They become angry at a sibling or whine when they have to go to school.
Sometimes children have difficulty even identifying their emotions and feelings. If days seem dark and gray, they wake up cranky and just want to pout. It’s painful never “being first” or too small to ride the Ferris wheel. Mini-tantrums can erupt when it’s time to practice, study or cooperate as a team.
Feelings can be big and hard for children who are small and just learning resilience. “Calm down!” or “Work it out!” may be temporary solutions, but story characters that are “just like me” may provide lasting lessons, bringing comfort for a day, maybe as a lifetime memory.
Following are a selected few picture books about children with cranky, moody, lonely, temper-filled, fearful or sad feelings that might help change a young reader’s bad time into a bright day.
Most of the time, the Hueys get along together, but sometimes that isn’t the case. When Gillespie comes across “a bit of an argument” among his siblings, there doesn’t even seem to be agreement about the cause of the argument.
Oliver Jeffers’ (“The Day the Crayons Quit”) trademark understated text and simple line sketches is the second adventure of the lovable Hueys. (The first is “The Hueys in the New Sweater.”) In this story, Gillespie, the peacemaker, stops the fighting by getting the other’s attention with “want to see a dead fly?”
This punch line might become a parent’s humorous signal for arguing children to "cease fire!”
“THE GRUDGE KEEPER,” by Mara Rockliff, illustrations by Eliza Wheeler, Peachtree, $16.95. (ages 4-8)
In Bonnyripple, no one carries a grudge (or “ruffled feathers, petty snits, minor tiffs, major huffs, insults, imbroglios, umbrages, squabbles or dust-ups”) because the Grudge Keeper kept them all in his ramshackle cottage.
When a storm flings all the grudges into a pile of pet-peeves and bones-to-pick with the Grudge Keeper buried underneath, it is up to the townspeople to work together to save him while putting aside their grudges. Beautiful detailed illustrations and the humorous story produce a subtle tale about learning to get along with others.
“PIG KAHUNA PIRATES!” by Jennifer Sattler, Bloomsbury, $16.99 (ages 1-5)
When Dink wakes up in a sulky mood, it takes some creative ideas from his brother Fergus to get rid of the crabbiness. Who wouldn’t delight in being captain of a pirate ship! “Pig Kahuna Pirates!” is a perfect story for tantrum time.
“THE VERY CRANKY BEAR,” by Nick Bland, Orchard/Scholastic, $16.99 (ages 3-5)
Bear doesn’t want noisy Moose, Lion, Zebra and Sheep to play in his cave. He is cranky, only wanting to sleep. But each of his friends believe they can cheer him up with moose antlers, a lion’s mane and stripes painted on his back. These additions just make him crankier. When Sheep shears off half her wool and designs a pillow for Bear, there is happiness in the cave.
Nick Bland’s clever cartoon-like art and rhyming text is a reminder that not everyone is cheered up in the same way.
“ME FIRST,” by Max Kornell, Nancy Paulsen Books/ Penguin, $16.99 (ages 5-8)
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