Angry Cookie

Angry Cookie
Laura Dockrill and Maria Karipidou
Walker Books

Who can resist the words of the chief protagonist on the back cover: “Don’t even think about opening this book, you nosy noodle. I’m warning you. I am very angry.”
Of course, like me you will immediately open the book and discover that Cookie IS angry, very angry and causing him to have daylight flooding into the book and thus his bedroom, is quite simply, intolerable.

However since we’ve already committed that outrageous act and are apparently not going anywhere, the biccy feels bound to share the reasons why he’s so aggrieved.

It’s on account of the previous day – a terrible one by all accounts – that began when flat mate Barbra insisted on playing the same tune on her new recorder over and over. (Cookie has my sympathies there.)

Next came running out of his favourite sweet toothpaste and having to use an unpleasant spicy one instead.

Even worse though was the bad haircut that forced our cookie narrator to wear an ill-fitting hat; unsurprisingly nobody makes hats for cookies, hence the bad fit that makes him a source of amusement to others.

If you can believe it though, the day has to throw in an even bigger disaster. Angry Cookie heads to the ice cream parlour, his heart set on his favourite vanilla sundae topped with all manner of yummy sprinkles and served in a tall glass. But – I’m sure you’ve already guessed – they’ve run out. Can you blame the poor thing for his anger?

Then on the way home along comes a bird that almost makes a meal of Angry Cookie himself;

but perhaps there is one consolation. Could our devotion and friendship be the key to a happier Cookie? After all we have stuck around despite all that the self-confessed ‘grumpy lump, horrid humph’ has said and done, so it’s worth waiting around a little longer to see if happiness is lurking somewhere under that tiny titfer.

What a deliciously quirky, witty tale Laura Dockrill has cooked up. Young children will adore this grump of a character and likely identify with his moody moaning.

Maria Karipidou has done a terrific job portraying Angry Cookie, making him, despite all that ranting, a character one cannot help but love right from the start.

Destined to become an early years storytime favourite methinks, and a great starting point for talking about emotions.

Out, Out, Away From Here

Out, Out, Away From Here
Rachel Woodworth and Sang Miao
Flying Eye Books

An exploration of emotions comes first hand from the red haired girl narrator of this picture book.

Sometimes she feels mad, sometimes she’s sad; on some days, ‘smiling-ear-to-ear GLAD’; on others ‘MAD SAD SMILING-EAR-TO-EAR GLAD.’ There are good and bad days, quiet ones and noisy ones. But on those ‘MAD SAD NOISY days’ she seeks solace in a place far off in the wild of her imagination.

That’s a place to watch the swishing, swooshing, rustling roaring trees with their whispery leaves, waving branches and grumbling trunks until both watched and watcher break into smiles and everything begins to change.

Finally it’s time to return, calm once more, to the everyday world of domestic reality.

Sang Miao’s superb illustrations show what is not said: there’s a baby sibling in the home that clearly puts the parents under strain at times. Here she uses dark silhouettes and dull hues …

in stark contrast to her richly coloured scenes of the narrator’s imaginary world, which are lush and fantastical with surreal images.

A fabulous book to start a primary classroom discussion on negative emotions – how they can affect us, and how we might respond to them.

The Big Bad Mood / Everyone …

The Big Bad Mood
Tom Jamieson and Olga Demidova
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Beware the Big Bad Mood; he’s always lurking somewhere around on the off-chance that you’ll be having one of those days when everything in the world seems to be conspiring to ruffle your feathers and make you feel thoroughly bad tempered. It’s such a day for young George – total tantrums are the order of his day. “There’s a big bad mood hanging around you today” says his mum.
George isn’t convinced: he can’t see the thing anywhere, which only makes him feel …

Then, seemingly out of nowhere there appears right before him a large blobby being announcing itself as “the Big Bad Mood”. His sole purpose, he informs George is to make everyone just like him – big, bad and moody; and he wants the boy’s help.
Off they go on their mischief-making mission and before long rather a lot of people are in big bad moods, including a fair number of George’s friends.
All this behaviour is pretty exhausting though, and after a while, George at least is starting to think constant big bad moodiness is not his thing; it’s silly, noisy, and upsetting for his friends.

Consequently, he bids farewell to his erstwhile companion who stomps off to find another partner in crime. And George? Maybe you can imagine what he did thereafter; let’s just say that he does apologise to all concerned; and he’s changed – somewhat!
A cleverly constructed, fun story to share and open up discussions about bad moods and anger-related feelings. Olga Demidova’s scenes of domestic moodiness, and the mayhem George causes out and about, will bring on giggles aplenty.

Christopher Silas Neal
Walker Books
Emotions are at the heart of Christopher Silas Neal’s debut as author/illustrator. I’m familiar with his wonderful artwork in Over and Under the Pond and this is somewhat sparer, or rather, for this feelings-centred book, the artist has chosen to use a restricted colour palette.
Herein, by means of a small boy character he explores the power of human emotions, demonstrating that they are perfectly normal. All of us experience them: all of us need to accept them for their universality. Neal’s focus is on the way in which as humans, our emotions are drawn into a relationship with the natural world – the birds, the sky, flowers.

His prose is simple, yet lyrical; his voice authentic sounding. “Sometimes, you just need to cry, and that’s OK,” he says as the boy’s tears become birds flying into the grey sky.

With Personal, Social and Emotional Development being one of the prime areas in the EYFS, books such as this one are just right for encouraging young children to talk about how they and others show their feelings.

I’ve signed the charter  

Big Tree is Sick

Big Tree is Sick
Nathalie Slosse and Rocio Del Moral
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Meet close friends, Snibbles and Big Tree; they’re accustomed to spending a lot of time together and Snibbles loves Big Tree very much.
One day though, Big Tree is sick: the doctor diagnoses woodworm; and Snibbles is devastated. Feelings of frustration and anger start to overwhelm him …

and he feels very scared.

Other creatures offer support: Bessie the Sheep brings a lovely, warm woollen scarf to wrap around the sick tree which gives him some comfort; not so Snibbles though. But then, having made himself a crown from Big Tree’s fallen leaves, he starts to feel a bit more upbeat. Thereafter, the focus is on helping Big Tree get through his treatment and happily for all, he does eventually make a good recovery.
With delightful illustrations and some extremely useful suggestions for activities and strategies at the end of the story, this book portrays the powerful feelings and emotions that children are likely to exhibit when a family member or a close friend is diagnosed with a serious, debilitating illness, cancer for instance.
There is also a link to the website of a Belgian non-profit organisation that adult users of the book might find useful.

I’ve signed the charter

Everybody Feels …

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Everybody Feels … Angry!
Everybody Feels … Sad!
Moira Butterfield and Holly Stirling
These are two of a quartet of books each of which centres on a different emotion (the others being Happy! and Scared!), presented from the viewpoint of child narrators.
Sophie and Ethan tell their angry stories. Sophie became overwhelmed by angry feelings when having left her ‘really good picture’ to retrieve her shoe from the dog’s mouth, she finds that her younger brother couldn’t resist adding some marks of his own to the drawing.

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Ethan’s anger was roused by the discovery that the chocolate bar his gran had given him had vanished from the cupboard and he then notices first the empty wrapper and then tell-tale marks on his big brother’s face.

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Fortunately however, the children are neighbours and so Ethan visits Sophie in her garden where it’s ‘calm and quiet’, the two talk about their feelings and the respective siblings then apologise, so all ends harmoniously.
In addition to the scenarios described, there are retrospective pages – one each for the children’s stories, a spread of related vocabulary and a ‘Next Steps’ finale offering early years teachers (should they need them) and other adults some guidelines for discussion, art and drama.
The second title follows a similar pattern: a story from sad girl Chloe, and one from sad boy, Omar. The former’s sadness is a result of losing her favourite toy elephant, Beebee; the latter is sad because his beloved cat Socks has died. (Ethan features in this story too: his cat has some kittens that go to live with Omar.)

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Sensitively told, and beautifully illustrated by rising star, Holly Sterling, this series is ideal for use in early years settings as well as families where there are young children.

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In My Heart

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In My Heart
Jo Witek and Christine Roussey
Abrams Appleseed
I received this book on the day we heard the terrible news about the second terrorist attack on Paris. So today (and yesterday) are days on which, as the small girl narrator says, “my heart feels heavy as an elephant. There’s a dark cloud over my head, and tears fall like rain. This is when my heart is sad.

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Indeed it could be said that one feels that way whenever there’s a news item about those seeking sanctuary from the crisis in Syria, and in other parts of the world.
However, right from its rainbow die-cut layered heart shown on the cover (its depth decreases as the pages are turned), this is  largely a book of hope and joy, wonder and positivity; as the child narrator tells readers, “My heart is like a house, with all these feelings living inside.”

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Every turn of the page reveals a new feeling or emotion be it bravery or fear, happiness or sadness, anger or calm; it might be a heart that feels hurt – broken and in need of healing with extra kisses, or one that is hopeful and “grows tall, like a plant reaching toward the sky.”

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How beautifully the author selects similes that help young audiences better appreciate each feeling: “Sometimes my heart feels like a big yellow star, shiny and bright.” – that’s happy; or when calm, “I bob along gently like a balloon on a string. My heart feels lazy and slow and quiet as snowfall.” This is mirrored by the choice of colour the artist employs for the symbol on the recto of each double spread.
As the heart-size diminishes with each turn of the page, we have a heart full of giggles (silly), a small treasure to hide away – a shy heart …

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and eventually, a garden full of hearts and a final question “How does your heart feel?” to ponder.
Elegantly and appealingly designed, gorgeously and sensitively illustrated and so full of heart, this is a must have book for all early years settings and families with young (and not so young) children.
As I said, I came to this with a heavy heart: I left it with one full once again, of hope … it’s the only way to be.

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