‘I am furious. I’m seeing RED. I’m filled with rage. A storm’s ahead.’
Arms on hips. Defiant. Looking on with furrowed brows against a backdrop of heavy red cloud and sky. So begins one young child’s venting of emotion in a picturebook that explores anger, when harnessed, as an energising, emboldening asset.
Although we never know exactly what it is that enrages our young protagonist, Teckentrup provides them with words and a backdrop of visual, visceral red-hot imaginings as they become a ‘furious dragon you cannot ignore’, and a ‘hurricane, whirlwind, twister, typhoon’: a perfect storm that results in a sense of long-awaited freedom after having ‘been silent too long’.
Starting with a series of double-spreads, figuratively abstract in picture and poetic style when illustrating the child’s anger, Teckentrup’s visual frame gradually narrows as the protagonist’s rage subsides. Mimicking a sense of meditative breathing, both frame and typography gradually contract and reduce in size. At the same time, hard colour-washes of anger – reds and greys – make way for long stretches of blue sky and open grasslands. Having used her anger to clear the path of potential obstacles, the child is able to move on.
Much like Oram and Kitamura’s Angry Arthur and Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, books that validate a child’s right to be angry have been met with some resistance but this is a picturebook about using these emotions for positive change. It is a story about power and control. At the close of the book, Teckentrup looks to the human rights activist, Anni Lanz, for inspiration, quoting her statement, ‘Use your anger to transform the world around you’ and that’s exactly what our young protagonist does.
Teckentrup’s story is about fighting a resistance to change and acknowledging that we can call on anger when we find our paths blocked by injustice. More often than not, and understandably, anger is seen in a negative light, what Teckentrup is inviting is for us to contemplate is how anger can motivate, fuel inspiration and become a force for change. A potent, powerful storm of a book.