Book Corner: Books to help children deal with emotions

May is Mental Health Awareness month, and it’s the perfect time to look at some children’s picture books which can help children understand their own emotions and help adults start conversations with children around these topics.

A Blue Kind of Day, opens a new window by Rachel Tomlinson, illustrated by Tori-Jay Mordey
Coen is having a very sad day and wants to stay in bed under the covers and cry. His mom encourages him to get up and out of bed, his dad tries telling him jokes to make him smile, and his little sister bounces on his bed to try to get a reaction.  But none of it works, and he is so sad he can’t even explain how he feels. His family stops trying to make Coen smile and instead just sits with him quietly until he is ready to snuggle, then read a book, and finally get out of bed.

I Want to Be Mad for A While!, opens a new window by Barney Saltzberg
This kitten doesn’t want to smile or act happy. They want to be mad for a while. Kitten explains that everyone wants them to act like a kitten, but they feel like a crocodile. They explain that sometimes when they feel like this it helps to talk, but other times they don’t have anything to say. Sometimes they need alone time. They don’t know how long they will feel like this--sometimes it doesn't last very long and other times it takes a while. But always the mad eventually goes away and kitten smiles again.

Out of A Jar, opens a new window by Deborah Marcero
Llewellyn does not like big emotions. When he is scared, sad, angry, or feels any other big emotions, he puts that emotion in a jar and locks it far away in a closet in the basement. That way the emotions don’t come back.  But eventually the closet where Llewellyn has been locking his emotions gets full. As he tries to shove one more jar in the closet, all the jars holding his emotions crack open and spill out. Rather than feeling scared or angry or sad, Llewellyn feels relieved and decides he won’t lock his feelings away anymore.

Sometimes I Kaploom, opens a new window by Rachel Vail, illustrated by Hyewon Yum
Katie Honors is brave: she climbs high on the playground equipment and only uses one small night-light at bedtime. Most times, she does not cry when it’s time to say goodbye to her mother at dropoff, but sometimes she doesn’t want to let her mother go, and Katie KAPLOOMS. She cries and roars and feels like she is made of scratchy sparks. Katie knows she needs to be brave at dropoff, but sometimes it is hard. Katie’s mother explains that she can be brave and sad at the same time, brave and scared at the same time. After talking with her mom a little more, Katie is able to let her mother go. She still feels the kaploom inside her but knows that it will start to go away.

Sometimes I’m a Baby Bear, Sometimes I’m a Snail: Ways to Say How You Feel, opens a new window by Moira Butterfield and Gwen Millward
Several young children explain how they have a variety of feelings from day to day and how they would like to be treated on those days. A little girl is sometimes a baby bear who loves hugs and sometimes is a no-hug bird who would rather give a wave. A little boy is sometimes a puppy playing with everyone and is sometimes a snail who prefers to be quiet and on his own. There is also acknowledgement of friends having these same kinds of days and understanding that all these feelings are okay, whether you are feeling them yourself or whether it is your friend.

The Wave, opens a new window by Tyler Charlton
A young boy explains how he feels when he is overcome by sadness. Sometimes, there is no reason, a wave of sadness just sweeps in and he loses his joy. The wave can feel like it is pushing him around, and all he can do is take care of himself until it passes. He hangs on and understands  that eventually the water will calm, and he’ll be able to start making his way back to shore. He knows to ask for help getting back to shore and to always remember that he will make it through.

Darcie Caswell is the Youth Services Coordinator at CRRL. This column originally appeared in The Free Lance-Star newspaper.