How are you feeling today?

Last week in the Library, we read three books about emotions. These are such important reading material for children, as they help them learn about how they and others feel and what might help if someone is annoyed, upset, jealous, frightened, etc.

There are many, many books out there that do this – the three below are just three that we looked at during story time. You might also want to check out my article for the Times Educational Supplement which has many more. And please do feel free to let me know any books that you have found helpful, too!

Bob’s Blue Period, by Marion Deuchars, published by Laurence King

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Bob and Bat are the best of friends so Bob is naturally distraught when Bat goes away, leaving a note of apology and no idea of when he will be back. He becomes so blue that all the portraits and other pictures he paints are blue. He forgets all the other colours exist and his friends become worried. How can they brighten up Bob’s world again?

This is such a lovely book about living with sadness and finding joy again thanks to the help of others. It was helpful to spark conversations with the children about how different colours can represent different human emotions: red for rage or love, green for jealousy and new life, orange for happiness, etc. We also talked about how people in different countries have different ideas about colours too: while in the UK a bride might wear white to celebrate her wedding, in China it means sorrow so red is more appropriate.

Marion Deuchars’ illustrations are lovely to show and talk about. We looked at how she incorporates techniques such as fingerprints into her creations – the boughs and trunks of a tree painted and the fingerprints provide the leaves, adding natural and interesting texture. We’re going to try this at some point in the Library, so watch this space!

Beyond the Fence, by Maria Gulemetova, published by Child’s Play

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Piggy is a forlorn animal, forced into being a porcine version of a human by Thomas – a boy who just loves to know best. He tells Piggy what to wear and what to do and talks at him, not to him. One day, when Thomas’ cousin comes to stay, Piggy is free to do what he wants, so he goes for a walk and meets Wild Pig, who is surprised at the clothes Piggy wears and that he’s never been running. The two strike up a friendship but whenever Wild Pig invites Piggy to do things like explore the forest, Piggy sadly replies that he’s not allowed to go Beyond the Fence. But now Piggy has had a taste of real friendship, how will he copy with Thomas’ unreasonable demands?

This seemingly simple book conveys a powerful message through its few words and expressive illustrations. Piggy’s body language is so telling – when he’s with Thomas he is visibly cowed (weird description for a pig I know!) and he walks on two legs – being the human substitute Thomas wants him to be. When he is with Wild Pig, he resorts to four-leggedness and his expression is so much happier. The children noticed this too, and commented on how unkind Thomas is to his supposed friend. There is one spread in the book which nearly always brings tears to my eyes, thus is the power of Gulemetova’s illustrations. This is a lovely book which I’d not heard about before but deserves a place in every children’s library.

The Squirrels Who Squabbled, by Rachel Bright and Jim Field, published by Hachette Children’s

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Cyril and Bruce are very different from each other: Cyril likes to be spontaneous while Bruce likes to plan. However, they have one thing in common – they’re both greedy. When autumn falls, Bruce, who has been stockpiling food all summer, decides he wants one more pinecone. Cyril, in the meantime, hasn’t saved a thing and spots the same pinecone. They both go for it, with hilarious results.

While the previous two books were quiet examples of characters and emotions, this book is full-on fun, racing through the story with a rhyme and rhythm that suits the frantic antics of the two squirrels. We see how they go to extremes to secure the much-coveted pinecone but never consider that, by working together, they would have more success (but of course would have to share). This is a good story to use with children to exemplify the importance of sharing and teamwork, and it makes them laugh too, which is always helpful in a story with a moral. The illustrations are beautiful – full of rich colours and warmth, and add action and movement to the tale.

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