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January 31, 2019

For Crying Out Loud! — Children’s Books to Help Angry, Grumpy and Upset Kids


Discover 14 great books for dealing with grumpy days with your little one — recommended by the Brighter Readers Book Crew!

Being little is not easy. It means hearing “no” a lot. It means that you are still learning how to use the words that mean what you want to say. And it also means that you are still learning how to make your body do the things you wish to do. Sometimes all of it adds up to a grumpy day.

We asked members of our Brighter Readers Book Crew to share their favorite children’s books about dealing with anger. Their recommendations share the different ways kids express and deal with feelings, too. Check our list out and share your favorite reads about big feelings with us in the the comments!

CJ Woods, III, is a retired creative director and currently a writer/columnist for The Weekly View community newspaper in Indianapolis. He’s also the father of two girls and one boy and grandfather of two girls and one boy. He’s been a joyful reader to them all. This is his pick:

Peter’s Chair

Ezra Keats, author and illustrator
Best for:
Two-year-olds, three-year-olds, four-year-olds, five-year-olds, and early readers

This book is about an issue all-too-common for families with more than one child — or families with children learning how to share. Peter is an only child until his sister is born. And he is upset when his parents paint his old baby furniture pink for her. There’s one thing they haven’t painted yet, though: his little blue chair. He’ll do whatever it takes to save it — even run away! Peter comes to understand that sharing his special things with his sister is important.

After you read: Ask, “Why do you think Peter feels upset about his parents painting his baby furniture?” Or, “Would you have done things differently if you were Peter’s parents?

Lisa Land is the mother of two awesome little boys! This is her pick:

I Was So Mad

Mercer Mayer, author and illustrator
Best for:
infants, one-year-olds, two-year-olds, three-year-olds, four-year-olds, five-year-olds
Little Critter is having quite the grumpy day. Whether he’s cranky on the slide or stubborn in the sandbox, both parents and children alike will relate to this story.

“First off, we love basically every Little Critter book. This one is a simple story of Little Critter trying to do all sorts of things that the grown-ups around him do not approve. After he’s told to stop each activity, he reflects on how mad he feels. And that’s completely okay! It’s also okay to have your feelings change at the end of the story! However, I feel this story leaves more of a lasting impression with the adult who reads it. Anyone, even a grown-up, would feel angry if all they heard all day long was “No,” right?

After you read: Talk about the things that make each of you feel frustrated. “I feel frustrated when I get too busy, and I don’t have time to do things I like.” Ask: “Are there times you feel the same way Little Critter feels in this story?”

Kirsten Eamon-Shine has a six-year-old son and way too many children’s books at her house. She also directs Early Learning Indiana‘s communications. This is her pick:

Little Monkey Calms Down

Michael Dahl, author, and Oriol Vidal, illustrator
Best for:
Infants, one-year-olds, two-year-olds, three-year-olds

Little Monkey is having a bad day. After a major meltdown, he goes to his room and uses some coping techniques to calm down. He sings a quiet song, cuddles with his blankie, and learns how to take deep breaths.

“Part of the Little Genius series, this board book offers ways to both identify feelings and manage big emotions. I like Little Monkey’s expressive faces, which offer children a wonderful way to practice feeling words (“How does Little Monkey feel?” “What does his face tell you?”). But I ADORE how Monkey takes a break, expresses his feelings, uses deep breaths and refocuses to calm himself down. Little Monkey offers parents the chance to talk about healthy coping strategies when any situation gets to be a bit too much for our little ones. And it helped so much when my little guy started learning to name and manage big feelings.”

After you read: Practice deep breaths — but don’t wait until you are experiencing a bad day. Practice Little Monkey’s techniques or come up with your own. Have your child pick a song that makes them feel calm.

Amy Healton is a mom of two and an early learning and development expert at Early Learning Indiana. This is her pick:

My No No No Day

Rebecca Patterson, author and illustrator
Best for:
Two-year-olds, three-year-olds, four-year-olds

From the moment Bella wakes up, her day goes wrong. She hates her breakfast egg, she won’t share, she has a hurting foot, her supper is too hot, and her bath is too cold. And then it’s no, no, no to bedtime.

“Sophie is having a bad day and feels angry about all aspects. Her mother helps her calm down and lets her know that bad days are okay. This story uses easy-to-connect-to examples, from spilled peas to itchy clothes, alongside engaging pictures to delight and connect with readers.”

After you read: Make a list of things that make your day yes, yes, yes. The company of a favorite teddy bear, looking out the kitchen window, a favorite book, or a warm hug. Now write down or draw your list together and keep it handy for when you are having a no, no, no day.

Brittany Fortman is a mom of two little ones under four and the manager of communications and engagement at Early Learning Indiana. These are her picks:

The Most Magnificent Thing

Ashley Spires, author and illustrator
Best for:
Three-year-olds, four-year-olds, five-year-olds

The girl has a wonderful idea. “She is going to make the most MAGNIFICENT thing! She knows just how it will look and how it will work. All she has to do is make it, and she makes things all the time. Easy-peasy!” But making her magnificent thing is anything but easy, and the girl tries and fails, repeatedly. Eventually, the girl gets really, really mad. She is so mad, in fact, that she quits.

“With help from her trusty assistant — her dog who suggests a walk — she is able to calm down and try again. The book is great at teaching kids not to give up and how to deal with frustration and those ‘I can’t do it’ moments”

After you read: Make crafts together, like a simple origami or drawing pictures of dogs. Look for a way to model how you are challenged. “Wow, this fold is hard!” or “Drawing noses feels tricky.” Then, help each other calm down and try again when you don’t get it right.

Grumpy Bird

Jeremy Tankard, author and illustrator
Best for:
Two-year-olds and three-year-olds

Bird wakes up feeling grumpy. Too grumpy to eat or play. Too grumpy even to fly. “Looks like I’m walking today,” says Bird. He walks past Sheep, who offers to keep him company. He walks past Rabbit, who also could use a walk. Raccoon, Beaver, and Fox join in, too. All the while, Bird grows grumpier and grumpier!

“This story is light on words, but big on feelings. Great for littles who are just starting to learn about emotions and how to deal with them. Fun illustrations, lots of animals and even some toddler humor thrown in — perfect for kids and a great tool for starting the conversation about feelings.”

After you read: Ask, “Do you ever feel like grumpy bird?” Or “Why do you think people feel like grumpy bird sometimes?

Vicki Lehman is a professional development specialist at Child Care Answers. She has a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education and spent her first seven years out of college teaching in a pre-K classroom. Some of her favorite books are by Dr. Seuss. These are her picks:

The Pout-Pout Fish

Deborah Diesen, author, and Dan Hanna, illustrator
Best for: Three-year-olds, four-year-olds, five-year-olds

“The Pout-Pout Fish is spending his days spreading “weary-drearies.” His friends spend their time trying to cheer him up. Inevitably, he learns his destiny is NOT to be so glum. It is a cute story that children love. It is also very rhythmic and catchy so they will love helping you ‘read’ the story.“

After you read: Ask, “Have you ever cheered up a friend that was sad?” “What did you do to cheer them up?” For older children, ask, “Do you think sometimes people are like the pout-pout fish, and confuse a feeling they have with thinking the feeling is their personality?

Sometimes I’m Bombaloo

Rachel Vail, author, and Yumi Heo, illustrator
Best for:
Three-year-olds, four-year-olds, five-year-olds

“This story is told from a child’s perspective. Katie spends time talking about how most of the time she is happy and listens — but sometimes she gets upset or angry. Katie calls that ‘Bombaloo.’ She goes on to talk about what happens when she is feeling upset. The book wraps us by showing us what happens and how Katie calms down — her mom gives her hugs and kisses, and they work together to solve the problem.”

After you read: Discuss, “why do you think hugs and kisses make Katie feel better?” Asking, “What do you like for me to do when you’re feeling upset?” may give you some new strategies for tough moments together.

Shirley Mullin is a teacher and librarian. She owns and operates Kids Ink, Children’s Bookstore. These are her picks:

When Sophie Gets Angry, Really, Really, Angry

Molly Bang, author and illustrator
Best for:
One-year-olds, two-year-olds, three-year-olds, four-year-olds

Everybody acts differently when they get angry. And in this story, readers can see with their very own eyes many different ways of expressing anger.

“Sophie doesn’t want to share a toy and gets angry. The illustrations show how big her anger becomes. Then it shows Sophie ‘cooling off’ and getting control over her very strong emotion.”

After you read: Talk about what it looks like when you each get angry. “Do you make faces? What level of volume does your voice reach? How does anger feel like in your head, arms or legs?”

Hands Are Not for Hitting

Martine Agassi, author, and Marieka Heinlen, illustrator
Best for:
One-year-olds, two-year-olds, three-year-olds, four-year-olds, read along with pre-school and pre-k learners

When children don’t have the words to express their feelings, they sometimes resort to hitting. But in this story, we learn that there are other ways.

“The book gently emphasizes that violence is never the answer. Hands can do many things that are gentle. With simple words, the author explains this concept in a way children can understand. TheBook is a sturdy board book.”

After you read: Rough play is an important part of developing motor skills. Talk about what things are ok to hit: a ball, a pillow, pizza dough. Then talk about all the other things that must be handled carefully: people, pets, breakable objects.

Llama Llama Mad at Mama

Anna Dewdney, author and illustrator
Best for:
Two-year-olds, three-year-olds, four-year-olds, five-year-olds, read along with pre-school and pre-k learners

Actions have consequences in this sequel to Llama Llama Red Pajama. The hoofed protagonist goes shopping with his mother, and gradually the small annoyances of the Shop-O-Rama send the youngster into a tantrum. With admirable patience and parenting skills, Mama tames the “llama drama,” explaining to her son that they can make the chore fun by working together. Soon Llama Llama is helping Mama clean up the messy results of his meltdown and complete their purchases, and then they are off to pursue more pleasurable activities.

After you read: Ask, “What do you think the little llama could have done to prevent his tantrum?” Or, “How do you think Mama Llama felt when Little Llama was having his tantrum?

Vicci Rydzinski is a wife and the mom of a spunky two-year-old boy! She’s also the manager of family child care support at Early Learning Indiana. These are her picks:

The Color Monster: A Pop-Up Book of Feelings

Anna Llenas, author and illustrator
Best for:
Three-year-olds, four-year-olds, five-year-olds

We teach toddlers to identify colors, numbers, shapes and letters — but what about their feelings? By illustrating such common emotions as happiness, sadness, anger, fear and calm, this sensitive book gently encourages young children to open up with parents, teachers and care providers

“The Color Monster covers the basic feelings with some amazing illustrations. The pages literally jump out at you and interest even the littlest toddler!”

After you read: Make drawings of what feelings are like. Choose what color goes with each feeling and then make lines or scribbles and doodles that reflect each feeling.

Happy Hippo, Angry Duck

Sandra Boynton, author and illustrator
Best for:
Two-year-olds, three-year-olds, four-year-olds

This book is all about moods. Animals exemplify a wide range of emotions in this hilarious story about different feelings. Young readers are sure to giggle as the interactive text asks them if they are “grumpy as a moose or excited as a dog?” Maybe they’re “worried as a rabbit or contented as a frog?”

“This book is very loved in my home! My son loves the familiar animals from Sandra Boynton and loves seeing them with their ‘angry’ face or ‘happy’ face. It is a regular read for us!”

After you read: Talk about feelings. What feelings you feel often and how you wear them on your face. Use your phone and take pictures together of all the feelings you can come up with.

Making Faces

Abrams Appleseed, author and illustrator
Best for:
Infants, one-year-olds, two-year-olds

This bold, beautiful board book introduces five essential expressions: happy, sad, angry, surprised and silly. Each is introduced with a large image of a baby’s face. Readers are asked to mimic the face, then pick it out from a group of other babies. The very last spread includes all of the expressions from the previous pages, and a mirror so readers can watch themselves make any face they please.

“I love that this is a non-fiction book. My son loves looking at the babies and trying to mimic their faces using the included mirror!”

After you read: Recreate the book in real life! Grab a mirror and make faces together, naming your emotions as you go.

Brighter Readers Book Crew is a group of early education professionals, child advocates, parents and book-loving experts that want to share their love of stories and books with families all across the state. Do you want to share the books you love and why you think they are great? Send a message to with the subject line Book Crew.

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