Today is Veteran’s Day in the US and Sunday is Remembrance Sunday in the UK and Commonwealth countries – both occasions to honor military veterans, to remember those who died serving their countries, and to reflect on peace and conflict. Rather than choose a book that highlights military service, war or peace, I’ve chosen a book that, I believe, will help kids express and overcome the negative feelings which, if left unchecked, spiral into negative action against themselves or others. Onto today’s Perfect Picture Book:
Title: Grumpy Pants
Written & Illustrated By: Claire Messer
Publisher/date: Albert Whitman & Company/2016
Suitable for Ages: 4-8
Themes/Topics: Grumpiness, coping, self-soothing, penguins, moods
Opening: “Penguin was in a bad mood. A very bad mood.”
Brief Synopsis: Penguin is in a bad mood, and he tries different solutions to overcome his negative feelings.
Links to Resources:
- Think about what you do when you feel grumpy, sad, angry or anxious;
- Draw faces that express feelings of grumpiness, sadness, angriness, nervousness;
- Try coping skills, like a stress ball, blowing bubbles, etc.
Why I Like this Book: With few words combined with hand-printed illustrations, Grumpy Pants shows kids, and maybe a few adults, ways to calm down and feel better when they’re feeling grumpy. I think the simplicity of the illustrations will focus even the fussiest kid’s eyes on Penguin and the steps he takes to feel better. The words and simple illustrations are a perfect blueprint to feeling better or could act as a discussion prompt for ways children might help themselves feel better.
A Note about Craft: Like Jane Yolen and What to Do With a Box, author-illustrator Claire Messer does not name the Main Character: he simply is “penguin.” Because he has no name, I think kids will be able to better identify with him.
I mentioned above that I like this book because it acts as a blueprint. But blueprints are only helpful if they can be read. So what techniques does Ms. Messer use to enable young children to read her blueprint to beat the grumpies? First, she uses few words and very simple language and sentence structure. She even breaks a few rules, including in the first sentence (“Penguin was in a bad mood.”), telling, not showing and using a form of “to be.” She also repeats the term “grumpy” quite often, in a good way, leaving no doubt as to Penguin’s true feelings. Penguin addresses his readers midway through the book after a scene that’s sure to bring chuckles or at least a smile, “I’m still grumpy, you know”, thereby luring the readers further into the story. Finally, to accompany the sparse, very direct text, Ms. Messer utilizes simple linoleum prints, with a limited but bright color palette, set against a white background – Penguin could be anywhere, perhaps right in your home.
Grumpy Pants is Claire Messer’s debut picture book. It received starred reviews from Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly, and School Library Journal, and was included in a review about moody picture books in the New York Times Book Review.
This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!