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)
While Hal and Martha agree on lots of things, there is one place where sibling rivalry reigns — being first. If a game is to be played, a river crossed or even a tree stump to touch, there are shouts of “me first!” Hal and Martha tried to take a break from arguing, but there were too many ways to be competitive. This book will ring true in many families where “me first!” is the goal for all kinds of situations.
“BETTY BUNNY WANTS A GOAL,” by Michael B. Kaplan, illustrated by Stephane Jorish, Penguin, $16.99 (ages 3-5)
Betty Bunny is determined to make 10 goals in her first soccer game. When she fails to score one, she yells, “I hate soccer. Soccer is yucky!”
Pouting, she stuffs her uniform and ball into the trash. A brother and sister encourage her and promise assistance. When she finally kicks a goal, she’s reminded that “if you keep trying and if you practice, there’s nothing you can’t do.”
The fourth in the popular Betty Bunny series teaches the importance of practice and perseverance, even for a 4-year-old. Others in the series that treat a young child’s feelings are “Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake” (teaching patience), “Betty Bunny Wants Everything” (about limiting wants) and “Betty Bunny Didn’t Do It” (about honesty and trust).
“THE GOOD-PIE PARTY,” by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton, Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine, $17.99 (ages 4-8)
As her family prepares to move away, Posy is upset having to say good-bye to her two best friends. On the last day together, they decide to bake a pie since “good pie is better than good-bye.”
The pie making ends as an invitation to all the neighbors who bring “pie upon pie upon pie” and a celebration of friendship instead of a tearful good-bye.
“BAD BYE, GOOD BYE,” by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Jonathan Bean, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $16.99 (ages 4-8)
Moving can be bad. The packing boxes are bad, the moving men in the truck are bad. The travel in a “stuffed car” is bad. Gradually the travel across the country with new sights brings a “new town” and “new street” and “new bark.” Finally, a “new house,” “new room” and next door a “new kid” completes the emotions of moving. “Bad Bye, Good Bye” can be a comfort for any new transition; new school, new friends or a summer away from home.
“EVEN MONSTERS ,” by A.J. Smith, Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky, $16.99 (ages 4-8)
It’s a known fact that monsters can growl and grumble. But it’s not so well known that monsters — especially Glubb and Skeebu — are like most children. They ride a bus to school, play video games and have to brush their teeth. Some monsters are even afraid of the dark. “Sometimes, even monsters need a kiss goodnight.”
So, perhaps children and monsters are not so different after all.
“PATTI CAKE AND HER NEW DOLL,” by Patricia Reilly Giff, illustrated by Laura Bryant, Scholastic, $16.99 (ages 3-5)
Patti Cake’s new room is big, dark and scary, especially since her dog, Tootsie, sleeps in the hall. Bella, the baby sitter, thinks a solution might be found in “Mr. Herman’s Everything Store.”
The doll they find in the old box is a little smudgy. “Are you alone in the greatly dark?” Patti Cake whispers to her new friend, whose name is “On Sale.”
The award-winning author and artist’s successful collaboration has certainly captured the innocent sweet voice of a child and her new protector of the “greatly dark.”
“MISS YOU LIKE CRAZY,” by Pamela Hall, illustrations by Jennifer A. Bell, Tanglewood, $15.99 (ages 3-5)
Walnut Squirrel didn’t want Mom to go to work, but she promises to take him on a Bring Your Child to Work Day, later. “I go to work so I can pay rent on our den and buy you Nutty Clusters.”
Mrs. Squirrel admits she misses Walnut, too, but carries his picture on her computer and in a locket. When she makes a sketch of herself for Walnut to hang near his backpack, missing Mom is not so bad.
Pamela Hall’s story has found the secret for working parents, and Jennifer A. Bell’s tender watercolor illustrations accentuate the bridge between separation and togetherness.
“A KISSING HAND FOR CHESTER RACCOON,” by Audrey Penn, illustrated by Barbara L. Gibson, Tanglewood Board Books, $7.99 (ages 2-4)
In the board book adaptation of the popular classic, Chester experiences anxiety at leaving home for the first time. Mrs. Raccoon kisses Chester’s palm, reminding him that the kiss will be near “wherever you may go.”
Every child needs a kissing hand when they go to a sleepover or spend a weekend away from home. “A Kissing Hand for Chester Raccoon” has helped hundreds of children and will continue for years and years to come.Comment on this story
“LOVE, HUGS AND HOPE: When Scary Things Happen,” by Christy Monson, illustrations by Lori Nawyn, Familius Publishers, $16.95 (ages 3-6)
When bad things happen, there are sometimes dark feelings. The author, a family counselor, advises, “Get them out with words, by hugging someone or even kicking a pile of dirty clothes.”
Each greeting-card-like illustration may be the impetus to dilute a situation when children have bad feelings.
'The Very Cranky Bear' by Nick Bland