How do you feel? Books for Keeps expert reviewer and founder of the website Healthy Books, Elizabeth Schlenther introduces ten of the best books about emotions, the good and the bad.
The Great Big Book of Feelings
Mary Hoffman and Ros Asquith, Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 978-1847807588, £7.99 pbk
Literally a ‘big book’, this A4 size production has jolly pictures and integrated text covering seventeen different emotions, with the busy illustrations providing plenty of scope for discussion. Everyone is represented too with lots of children of colour as well as disabled kids. Great for schools where the large size will be useful in reading circles.
Say Goodbye, Say Hello
Cori Doerrfeld, Scallywag Press, 978-1912650439, £12.99 hbk
There are plusses and minuses to friendships, and best friends, Stella and Charlie learn all about the good and the bad bits. When Stella’s goldfish dies, it is Charlie who provides comfort, and when Charlie and his family must move far away, Stella learns that saying a sad goodbye can lead eventually to new friendships. Wonderful soft, chalky pictures full of bliss and fun as well as sorrow are a treat.
How Do You Feel?
Anthony Browne, Walker, 978-1406347913, £5.99 hbk
A very special book for the very young about a small monkey and his feelings. Both text and illustration reflect the mood, the text by use of font size, boldness or italics, and the pictures in the use of colour. Some of the feelings are physical – hunger, etc. – and others are emotional – anger or guilt, for instance. Superb, as to be expected by this author/illustrator.
How Are You Feeling Today?
Molly Potter and Sarah Jennings, Featherstone Education, 978-1472906090, £10.99 hbk
Twelve different short chapters about twelve different emotions, both positive and negative, suggest coping strategies for each one, and the bright, double-page spreads show children doing each of the activities suggested – walking in the park or running in place, for instance, might help those with anger issues. These suggestions are easily do-able and practical, and the book is both well-produced and realistic. I enjoyed the lovable cat on each page, who ‘explains’ what each feeling is like physically. Good information for parents is welcome as an addition.
Today I Feel…An Alphabet of Feelings
Madalena Moniz, Abrams, 978-1419723247, £9.99 hbk
A nicely original idea for learning about both the alphabet and emotions at the same time. As there are twenty-six letters to be used, there are some ‘unusual’ emotions – Y for ‘yucky’, for instance, and Z for ‘zzzzz’, but this seems fair enough. Each two-page spread shows a beautifully illustrated letter on the left, with an equally beautiful picture of a child performing a task or emotion that reflects the given word – P for ‘patience’ and the child working on a puzzle. A very effective learning tool as well as a joy to behold.
A Shelter for Sadness
Anne Booth and David Litchfield, Templar, 978-1787417212, £12.99 hbk
A lyrical and moving picture book wherein Sadness is a character in its own right, and, at the same time, is within the young lad who tells the story. He is seriously sad – about what we are not told – but he decides that the only way of handling his distress is to build a shelter for his sadness with specific requirements, where it will be safe. Inspired by Etty Hillesum, a Holocaust survivor who coped with her grief in her writing, the intense emotions in both text and illustration make this a poignant book for everyone over nine or ten. Outstanding in every way.
Michael Rosen’s Sad Book
Michael Rosen and Quentin Blake, Walker, 978-0744598988. £11.32 hbk
While this book has been in print since 2004, it never loses its impact and tenderness. Having lost both his nineteen-year-old son and his mother, Rosen writes about sadness with the perfect words that only a poet can summon to express himself. His coping strategies are here as well as his memories, and while one may cry with him, one will also rejoice at his skill. Quentin Blake’s illustrations are perfectly in context too, and this is a book that will appeal to everyone over about ten. Timeless.
Fergal is Fuming
Robert Starling, Andersen Press, 978-1783445905, £6.99 pbk
When Fergal fumes, dire things happen because Fergal is a dragon – a dragon with anger management issues, and whether he is melting the greens on his plate or burning down the goal posts in a match, the results are spectacular! Friends make themselves scarce, and only his Mum can tell him he must learn control. Coping strategies are here, and the illustrations, full of colour, movement, and integrated text are huge fun. A funny story with a good moral that doesn’t seem moral at all.
The Healthy Coping Colouring Book and Journal: Creative Activities to Help Manage Stress, Anxiety and Other Big Feelings
Pooky Knightsmith, and Emily Hamilton, Jessica Kingsley, 978-1785921391, £9.99 pbk,
A self-help book for older kids, this nicely produced, fat paperback volume full of poems, aphorisms, suggestions of things to do when feeling low, and intricate line drawings to paint or crayon in, also includes lots of space for writing down one’s thoughts and concerns. It should appeal to teenagers who suffer from low self-esteem, mental health issues, or the kind of angst only they can experience; plus, it will give many hours of solitary pleasure.
Jack and Michael Foreman, Walker, 978-1406313598, £7.99 hbk
In simple chalky line drawings in blue and black with the odd touch of red, this artless picture book tells of a boy and his dog who have been excluded by their friends and are lonely and sad. Written by Jack Foreman at the age of nine and his father, Michael, both text and illustrations make the sadness palpable, but thankfully, there is a happy ending. Outstanding in its simplicity.
Elizabeth Schlenther is a retired hospital librarian and school librarian. She runs the Healthy Books website which highlights books to help children deal with problems.It features 2,600 books in over 100 categories and sub-categories for children up to age 12.