Tag Archive: anger

Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff

Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff

Trent can’t manage to move on from last year when a tragic accident ended with another boy dead. Trent lost not only all of his friends because of it but also finds himself unable to play the sports he loved, like baseball. At the same time, Trent is unable to control his anger, even if he puts his most disturbing thoughts down on paper in drawings. It helps a bit, but he continues to have problems getting angry at everything and everyone. It all just proves that he is entirely the messed up kid that everyone things he is already. Fallon enters Trent’s live as they head to middle school. She is a girl who loves baseball movies, has a similar sense of humor, and has clearly also survived a tragedy which left her with a scarred face. Fallon becomes Trent’s closest friend, but one burst of anger may end that too, taking away the only good thing he has left.

Graff does such a beautiful job in this middle grade novel. She creates in Trent a truly complex character, one that readers will need time to understand. Trent is at his heart a boy dealing with death and loss and his own role in it, including showing a lot of self-hatred. So in that way, he is an entirely understandable character, one that is sympathetic. Then there is the angry Trent, who loses control, says horrible things, and lashes out. That part of his personality is hard to like, making him at times a character who is far from heroic. At the same time, this is the same person, likable one moment and the next impossible to like at all.

Graff captures the loss of control that comes with flashing red anger, the words that flow out of control, and the way that it feels in the body. Readers will completely understand those zings of anger and the shame that follows if you lash out. Graff also shows a path forward from being isolated and angry, a way to find people to help you even if you have lashed out at them earlier. It is a powerful story of redemption, of learning to return to who you really are, and of self forgiveness.

Beautifully written, this book is an amazing look at powerful emotions and the equal power of watering plants, breathing deeply and playing baseball. Appropriate for ages 10-13.

Reviewed from ARC received from Philomel Books.

here comes destructosaurus

Here Comes Destructosaurus! by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Jeremy Tankard

Destructosaurus enters town tipping buildings over as he rushes in.  His feet are filthy from seaweed and fish.  He is angry and shoots flames from his mouth, doesn’t he know he needs to burp quietly and keep his mouth closed?  Destructosaurus gets grumpier and starts to show attitude, throwing buildings around and generally throwing a temper tantrum too.  But then he finds what he was looking for the whole time and settles down, but he won’t stay to help clean up the mess.  Maybe someone else will?

Told in an adult voice scolding Destructosaurus for his lack of manners and his tantrum, this picture book is a blast to share aloud.  Children will immediately recognize the tone of the voice and will delight in it being focused on a rampaging monster.  The humor here is wonderfully broad and right in your face.  It will appeal to toddlers who have their own tantrums and older children who will enjoy the play of monster movie and parent.

Tankard’s illustrations are bight colored and loud.  They zing with energy as the monster enters the city and destroys it.  The monster is done in thick strokes that set him apart from the landscape, allowing him to pop and seem even larger than the surrounding buildings.

A zany and fun look at tantrums, this book will be appreciated by parents and children alike.  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.

grandfather gandhi

Grandfather Gandhi by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus, illustrated by Evan Turk

When Arun went to stay at his grandfather Mahatma Gandhi’s village, he worried that he would not be able to live up to his famous name.  Arun walked all the way from the station to the village and made his grandfather proud, but he continued to fret that he would not do the right thing the next time.  The village was very different from where he lived before.  Arun had to share his grandfather’s attention with 350 followers who lived there as well.  Arun struggled with his studies and the other kids teased him as well.  He found the meditation and prayers difficult too.  His grandfather urged him to give it time, that peace would come.  However, Arun just found it more and more frustrating.  When Arun finally lost his temper with another boy, he had to tell his grandfather about it, worried that he would be told that he would never live up to his name.  How will Mahatma Gandhi react to this angry young man?

Gandhi relates his own memories of his grandfather, offering his honest young reactions to this amazing yet also formidable man.  The book resulted from Arun recounting childhood stories aloud.  Hegedus emailed him afterwards and asked to work on a book with him, though she felt very unworthy of such a project.  The book is beautifully written and speaks to everyone who has felt that electric anger surge through them too.  Hegedus sets the stage very nicely for the lesson, allowing time for Arun’s anger to build even as she shows the lifestyle of the village and Mahatma Gandhi himself.  It is a book that is crafted for the most impact, building to that moment of truth.

Turk’s illustrations add much to the book.  Using mixed media, he offers oranges, purples, deep pinks and more that show the heat not only of the climate but of Arun’s anger.  Throughout, he also uses fabrics for the clothing, creating three-dimensional depth to the paintings.  When Arun’s emotions flare, the illustrations show that with tangles of black thread that all bring readers back to the image of Gandhi spinning neat white thread.  The contrast is subtle and profound.

Personal and noteworthy, this is a picture book about Gandhi that is entirely unique and special.  Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Reality Boy by A. S. King

reality boy

Reality Boy by A. S. King

Gerald became a reality TV star at age five when his mother brought in a television nanny to help him with his anger issues.  He had been putting holes in the walls.  He then started crapping around the house, often caught on camera.  Now Gerald is seventeen and still struggling with anger in his life.  His abusive older sister is back home, living in the basement.  His closer sister has gone to college in Scotland and never calls.  His mother and father are both entirely ineffective to stop anything.  Gerald spends much of his time in Gerland, a world filled with ice cream and candy, where no one is angry or mean.  But he can’t live there forever, and he has to return to the real world where he has no friends and people call him The Crapper.  It’s all too much sometimes for Gerald to handle, but he has to figure out a way to handle things that doesn’t have him escaping to a fantasy world or beating someone bloody.

I found this book to be entirely gripping.  The premise of a boy who is damaged by a reality show that is meant to help (at least on the surface) is very clever.  As the layers of the story are pulled back, one discovers who the true problem is.  King does this in surprising ways though flashbacks that continue to shock even though one thinks all is revealed.  This is a book that will do much to show teens that abuse by siblings and children happens to others.

King has created a wounded hero in Gerald.  He is stunted by his family, unable to grow up and unable to control his outbursts.  The reader aches for him, roots for him and yes is also frightened by his lack of control.  He is a teen caught by his past and unable to see a future.  One weakness of the book is the depiction of Gerald’s family.  They are not fully developed and the book loses something because of that, given that they are so much of the story of Gerald’s dysfunction. 

Gerald is a magnificent character, and the book is compelling and harrowing.  Appropriate for ages 15-18.

Reviewed from digital copy received from NetGalley and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

no fits nilson

No Fits, Nilson! by Zachariah OHora

Everyone has temper tantrums, but you haven’t seen a tantrum until it is one thrown by a huge blue gorilla.  Nilson has tantrums over even the smallest of things like putting on shoes, his block castle being knocked over, or other people having bananas.  Amelia tries to keep him calm with treats like banana pancakes and holding her frog purse.  But Nilson still has fits.  Amelia though is calm throughout, always acting kindly.  That all changes though when the ice cream vendor runs out of banana flavor! 

This picture book nicely captures tantrums and children, offering a welcome bit of humor for children and parents going through this phase.  By using Nilson as the one who loses his control, the book nicely distances the tantrums from the child reader.  It also adds a wonderful sense of fun to the entire read.  The ending of the book is particularly satisfying as Amelia finally loses her cool and the truth of who Nilson is really is revealed.

OHora’s art is modern, filled with bright colors and black lines.  Somehow it has a feel of wood cuts, but with freer lines.  The friendship of these two characters is lovingly shown in the images, then beautifully shattered with the tantrums too. 

An engaging and funny look at tantrums and anger, this book will neatly fit into any story time on anger.  It is also one that is a perfect bedtime read.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Dial.

peace baby

Peace, Baby! by Linda Ashman, illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff

So many children’s books about strong emotions come off as mini-lectures about proper behavior.  This one has a stirring call for people to not react with violence or anger, but instead with peace and understanding while continuing to be understanding about those negative emotions that can overwhelm.  The rhyme helps make the book fun and jaunty while offering the idea of just saying “Peace, Baby!” when you get upset.  This is the most basic of conflict resolution, yet it is also the start of something bigger, taking responsibility for your own reactions and controlling them.  This cheery book invites others to be happy and peaceful.

Ashman’s rhyme is at the heart of this book, carrying the entire idea of being peaceful and calm forward with a jolly rhyme.  Thanks to the playful nature of the rhymes and the “Peace, Baby!” the book does not lecture but instead recommends hugs, conversations and compromise. 

Lew-Vriethoff’s illustrations add a lovely softness to the book.  With their pastel shades, the book continues to feel playful but also has a lightness to it that keeps the message from feeling heavy handed at all. 

A strong addition to library collections, this will be a great way to talk about emotions as a group and also the proper responses to when you feel angry.  Peace out!  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.


Again! by Emily Gravett

It’s nearly bedtime and that means a bedtime story.  Mama dragon and little dragon curl up together to share the story of the bright, red dragon Cedric who has never gone to bed.  When they finish, the little dragon asks for it “Again?”  Mama dragon agrees and readers will see another full page of the book that tells more about Cedric and his not sleeping.  Mama reads it one more time before falling asleep herself.  Readers will notice the little dragon getting redder and redder just as Cedric in the story is turning back to green.  But this little dragon has a burning desire for one more story that leads to a fiery ending.

Gravett cleverly reaves two parallel stories together here.  There is the main story of the little dragon who wants to be read to over and over again.  Then there is the story of Cedric in the book that Mama dragon reads.  The two play off of one another, with tension in one ebbing as the other picks up. 

The art is just as clever.  Towards the end, the little dragon shakes the book in disgust and the characters take a tumble across the pages.  This leads to the surprise of the ending, which is sure to delight young readers. 

A perfect ending for a story time, this book is one that young children (and dragons) will want to read AGAIN!  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

chloe instead

Chloe, Instead by Micah Player

When Molly heard that she was going to have a younger sister, she wanted one that was just like her.  But she got Chloe, instead.  Molly likes to color with crayons.  Chloe likes crayons too, but she likes to eat them.  Molly likes to read books.  Chloe likes books too, but she likes to rip them apart.  She won’t leave Molly’s things alone either.  So when Chloe pushes Molly a bit too far, she yells at her.  But then Molly thinks a bit and calls Chloe back to dance along with her music.  Suddenly, they feel just like true sisters.  In the end, Molly is happy that Chloe is not just like her, instead Chloe is herself and that’s wonderful.

As the narrator, Molly nicely explains exactly how her little sister drives her crazy.  Any older sibling will recognize these behaviors.   It’s good to see a child lose her temper in a picture book and then move on to regain her composure and become positive again.  The ending is too pat and easy, and I wish there was a glimpse of a bit of tension in the end.  That said, the connection formed over music really worked for me as a plot point. 

As you can see from the cover, Player has created a vibrant palette for this picture book.  The bright colors combine with a modern vibe, creating a book that is great fun to read.  The text is simple and quick with pictures that will work well with a crowd.

Modern, dynamic and addressing sibling issues, this book will be welcomed into many families and into story times about siblings.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.


Mad at Mommy by Komako Sakai

Released in October 2010.

A new book from the creator of The Snow Day, this book offers an accurate portrayal of child anger. 

Little Bunny is very angry at his mommy.  And he is more than willing to tell her exactly why.  She sleeps late on Saturdays.  She never lets him watch cartoons.  She always yells for no reason.  She is always telling him to hurry up and then not hurrying herself.  She always forgets to do the laundry.  She told him he can’t marry her when he is older.  So he’s decided to run away.  For a moment or two.

Sakai has created a very spare and minimal picture book.  The use of texture and roughness in the illustrations complements the frustration of Little Bunny.  Originally published in Japan, the book does feel different than American picture books, especially in its illustrations. The subject matter is universal.  The book is told in the child’s voice, which Sakai captures winningly.  The complaints are offered as a list, one to the next, as if they are occurring to him as he speaks.  The effect is a rather dynamic feel to the book, leaping from one idea to the next.

A beauty of a book that will make a great contrast to other anger books like When Sophie Gets Angry – Really, Really Angry by Mollly Bang and Mean Soup by Betsy Everitt.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Scholastic.

Alfie Runs Away

Alfie Runs Away by Kenneth M. Cadow, illustrated by Lauren Castillo

Alfie’s mother has gone too far!  She wants to give away his favorite shoes and get him new ones.  So Alfie decides to run away.  As he packs his things, his mother makes helpful suggestions, like taking a water bottle, snacks and a flashlight.  She gets him a bag to help carry his items, suggests he take his teddy bear and some books too.  With all that to carry, Alfie can’t go far.  But he does make it all the way deep into the backyard, still wearing his too-small beloved shoes.  When he gets there, he has a drink, a snack, and takes his shoes off and puts his aching feet in the cool grass.  When he takes them off, he puts them on his bear where they fit perfectly.  Now the only thing missing was the hug he refused earlier.  Luckily, his mother is headed out to see him with her arms open wide.

The tone in this book is spot on.  Cadow both respects Alfie’s perspective on the situation and yet shows a loving, warm mother who allows Alfie to learn his own lessons.  There are lovely moments in the book where Alfie’s mother gently suggests he not wear those shoes and when she offers to put his rejected hug in his bag to carry along with him.  Cadow manages to show Alfie’s frustration and his mothers calmness side by side without either overshadowing the other.

Castillo’s illustrations feature the shoes in bright red as a focal point.  She too balances the relationship of mother and son visually.  Her illustrations have soft edges and feel cozy and warm.  They ensure that children will not be alarmed at this boy running away.  Alfie’s facial expressions really project his moods clearly, moving from his initial anger to contentment at the end.

I packed my bags and ran away as a little girl.  All the way down the driveway and over to a bush in the neighbors yard.  I had no idea my mother could still see me out the window.  I was sure I had gone far, far away.  This book captures the situation with simplicity and honesty.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Farrar Straus Giroux.


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