Terrible Days and Pizzas: Books About Emotions

Terrible Days and Pizzas: Books About Emotions

My kid had a terrible tantrum last night. A real humdinger of a meltdown. She’s kind of old to have those on a regular basis, but we still get them every once in a while. She was furious, then upset, then penitent, then furious again about the consequences for her first tantrum.

After she’d calmed down some, she started recounting all the awful things that had happened to her that made this the WORST DAY OF HER LIFE.

“Wow,” I said. “It’s kind of like Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” I didn’t want to push the comparison, but it seemed to take her out of herself just a little to remember that other people have felt the way she did—enough that Judith Viorst wrote a whole book about a kid whose day goes so badly that he declares repeatedly that he wants to move to  Australia.

Here are a few other books about emotions that might help a kid who’s stuck in her (or his) own anger or misery:

When Sophie Gets Angry—Really, Really Angry, by Molly Bang. Enraged over a sibling dispute, Molly runs and runs outside, then cries, then climbs a tree and lets “the wide world comfort her,” until her anger is dissipated and she returns to her house to play a game with her family. What I love about this book is the way the vibrant, bold, pulsating colors of Bang’s painted illustrations make it absolutely clear what Sophie is feeling. A rare nonjudgemental book about a child’s totally believable anger.

How Are You Peeling?, by Saxon Freyman and Joost Elders. This duo has created a whole series of books in which the characters are played by fruits and vegetables, cleverly carved to resemble animals and people. This one, which introduces a surprisingly broad range of emotions, is my favorite: who would have guessed that lemons and onions and even turnips could be so expressive? (I’m particularly fond of the sulky red pepper who illustrates the concept of pouting.) The illustrations, along with the jaunty rhyming text, also help keep the book from bogging down with seriousness or preachiness.

Pete’s a Pizza, by William Steig. [out of print, but available used and at many libraries.] It’s raining, so Pete can’t go outside to play with his friends. He’s miserable, but not for long: his parents start pretending he’s a pizza: they “knead” him on the kitchen table, sprinkle paper (for cheese) and checkers (for pepperoni) on him, and drop him on the couch to be “baked.” All the while his expression modifies from full-bore crabbiness to mildly-amused-in-spite -of-himself to total giggling enjoyment, until he leaps off the counter (where’s he’s about to be “sliced”) and runs away, only to be caught and tickled. My daughter hates to be cheered up or jollied out of what she’s feeling, but sometimes she likes reading about it, and your child might too.


December 5, 2007

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One book that I LOVE about moods is When Mommy Was Mad by Lynne Jonell. I use it in every storytime that I can. It shows kids how moms can sometimes be in a bad mood for no reason at all, ie we're human, and also shows moms how our bad moods can be contagious to our kids, something to be mindful of. Great book.

I like Lyle and the Birthday Party, where loveable Lyle gets eaten up by jealousy.

Those both sound great; thanks for your ideas!

MR, I don't know that one but think it might go over well at our house. I do remember one from when I was little, called "The Sorely Trying Day" (Just looked it up-- it's by Lillian Hoban), in which Dad comes home after a particularly trying day and snaps at Mom, who crabs at the oldest kid, who does something snipish to the younger kid...all the way down to a mouse, if I remember right. It made a big impression on me about how one person's mood can affect everyone else.

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