Vail, Rachel. Sometimes I Kaploom. Illustrated by Hyewon Yum. Orchard Books, 2023. 978-1-338-84030-8. $18.99. Grades PreK-1. Unpaged.
Katie Honors is an incredibly brave kid. She can climb up high, sleep in her own bedroom, try new foods, and much more. However, sometimes when her mother drops her off at school, she kaplooms. Her emotions overcome her, and she falls on the floor, grabbing her mother’s legs and crying. While she doesn’t feel very brave during these episodes, her mother assures her that it’s okay to feel sad and/or scared; it doesn’t make her any less brave. This heartfelt tale of separation anxiety concludes with notes from the author and illustrator explaining their own experiences with this all-too-familiar scenario.
THOUGHTS: This would be a great addition to any social-emotional learning collection. The mother in the story demonstrates a very healthy response to her child’s behavior, taking the time to comfort Katie and validate her feelings. Separation anxiety is such a common occurrence that this book would be extremely relatable for most young children. Pair it with Vail’s other installment to the Big Feelings series, Sometimes I Grumblesquinch (2022), for an even deeper exploration of feelings and emotions.
Applegate, Kathrine. The One and Only Ruby. Harper Collins, 2023. 978-0-063-08008-9. 240 p. $19.99. Grades 3-7.
Ruby’s story picks up a few months after the events of The One and Only Bob. Ruby is now living in a wildlife sanctuary that is right next to her friend Ivan. Of course, Bob comes to visit often. When Ruby discovers that her old caretaker from the elephant orphanage in Africa is there, Ruby’s story unfolds. Happy and sad memories surface as readers finally learn Ruby’s backstory.
THOUGHTS: The story we’ve been waiting for has finally arrived! Applegate does not disappoint in the final book in her series.
Davidson, Brad. Pocket Full of Sads. Illustrated by Rachel Mas Davidson. Rodale Kids, 2023. 978-0-593-56456-1. Unpaged. $18.99. Grades K-2.
For no specific reason, Bear’s “heart feels heavy / like [his] pocket’s full of sads.” It is hard to explain. A physical ailment isn’t the cause. It’s more like how one would feel if a brand new toy broke or a friend chose to sit with someone else. Rabbit is determined to fix Bear, but it isn’t as simple as telling a funny joke or using the internet for an answer. Finally, things become too hard. Will Rabbit fix Bear’s pocket full of sads, so they can go fishing, or will this be one feeling that’s too big to fix?
THOUGHTS: Davidson’s story is perfect for morning meetings or a counseling/Social Emotional Learning lesson. Told in a simple, gentle manner, young learners will understand how little things can cause big emotions. Rachel Mas Davidson’s colorful illustrations add brightness and hope to a book about facing sadness. Highly recommended.
Oswald, Pete. The Noise Inside Boys: A Story About Big Feelings. Random House Studio, 2023. 978-0-593-48322-0. 32 p. $18.99. Grades K-3.
A day at the beach starts off well for a father and his three sons. The boys run, splash, and play in the sand. The two older boys begin a game of soccer while the younger brother constructs an intricate sandcastle. When a stray kick sends the soccer ball sailing into the sandcastle, the younger brother isn’t immediately sure how to feel. Many different emotions swirl inside of him, and he takes off running down the beach. Later that evening, Dad encourages him to take some deep breaths and try naming his inside feelings. Together, they cover a wide range of emotions, and Dad assures his son that the feelings are his, and each one is okay. He tells the boy to listen to his emotions so he is able to name them and better-explain how he is feeling. The illustrations were created using watercolor, gouache, acrylic, and digital tools, and the muted, often monochrome palette, lets each emotion take center stage. The book’s last page is titled “Know How You Feel” and features children depicting twenty different emotions including happy, sad, annoyed, hurt, grateful, determined, and calm.
THOUGHTS: Share this title with guidance counselors. It will also be useful to pique discussions about students’ varied feelings during Morning Meetings or Closing Circles.
Beckmeyer, Drew. I am a Tornado. Atheneum Books for Young Readers. 2023. 978-1-6659-1674-5. unpaged. $18.99. Grades K-2.
A tornado, who is unaware that he is angry, picks up a cow and destroys all that is in his path. The cow tries to talk to the tornado and listen to him, convincing him that he needs to calm down and just rest and be still. The cow stays with Tornado until he settles and blows away.
THOUGHTS: This title would be a good read with students who need help with anger management. The simple and colorful illustrations are relatable.
The world we live in today is not the same it was years ago. Our current world can be tough for anyone to live in, especially for children. Unfortunately, children see many negative things in the world, including rudeness, anger, and prejudice through a variety of sources. The series Learning Core Values is important for all, especially children, to help offset the negative behaviors seen. The reviewer read the titles Forgiveness and Honesty. Forgiveness is when a person who has been hurt makes the choice to stop being angry at another person and accept the mistakes that have been made. Using real life examples, Forgiveness uses examples at home and school where a person may feel hurt or upset and how we can use forgiveness to move forward. This book also describes how forgiveness may be difficult for all. Honesty simply means telling the truth. Being honest may not be easy, but it is the right thing to do. As with Forgiveness, Honesty uses real life examples at home and school about how we can be honest with others and yourself.
THOUGHTS: I found this series to be one that young readers may be able to relate to. Utilizing a variety of real world examples showcases the character trait in a way that many can connect to. Real photographs, easy-to-read text, and additional information in the back matter makes this series a must have!
Kuyatt, Meg Eden. Good Different. Scholastic Press, 2023. 978-1-338-81610-5. 346 p. $18.99. Grades 4-7.
Selah, a seventh grader at Pebblecreek Academy, is on sensory overload. All her life, Selah’s mother has encouraged her to hold in her feelings—to be ‘Normal’—in public settings, but everything begins to crumble after Selah begins to feel her inner ‘dragon’ trying to escape. In a moment of desperation, Selah hits a classmate who keeps touching Selah’s hair. This impulsive action puts her status as a Pebblecreek student into question. With the help of a teacher, a friend, and her Pop, Selah works to learn more about herself and express feelings through poetry. Unfortunately, not everyone is empathetic or kind along the way. Selah is neurodivergent; throughout the verse novel, she begins to discover her triggers and how to navigate (rather than hide) her feelings and emotions in this moving coming-of-age story.
THOUGHTS: Written in verse format, this story has powerful emotional depth and offers readers a realistic window into growing up on the autism spectrum. Fans of stories like Forget Me Not, Real, Can You See Me?, and Counting by 7s will love Good Different by Meg Eden Kuyatt, a neurodivergent author. Because Selah goes undiagnosed for a large part of the story, the book sheds light particularly well on struggles that girls on the autism spectrum often face as they feel they must mask their sensory feelings, passions, and emotions. This title is highly recommended for all middle grade literature collections.
Otis and Peanut may seem like a strange pair of friends, with one being a long-haired guinea pig and the other being a naked mole rat, but that is one of the many things that make this duo great! Together, Otis and Peanut discuss the fear of change, loss, friendship, and what makes a home a home. This quirky pair tackle some of life’s hardest challenges, both knowing they have a friend to help along the way.
THOUGHTS: This graphic novel discussed some challenging topics in a great way for young readers to understand. The friendship shown can bring a smile and comfort to the reader as topics of fear, loss, and belonging are brought up and worked through.
Warga, Jasmine. A Rover’s Story. Balzar + Bray, 2022. 979-0-063-11392-9. 294 p. $17.99. Grades 5-8.
Mars rover Resilience, Res for short, was built to explore Mars. As he learns how to do that, he begins to think that maybe he was built for more. He begins to develop human-like emotions which he knows he is not supposed to have. As Res goes to Mars with his helicopter drone, Fly, he ends up learning more about himself than he ever knew before. The story is also told through letters by a young girl who is connected to Res in ways that he does not know. They both develop throughout the story in surprising and wonderful ways.
THOUGHTS: This is an amazing book that looks into human emotions and what it means to have courage, resilience, and strength. Even though this story is fictional these characters felt like they were real, and if I searched I could find a Mars rover who had done the things that Res does in the book. This is a wonderful book that would make an amazing read aloud. A must have for every middle grade collection.
Science Fiction Mary McEndree, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy
Dragonwagon, Crescent. Will it be Okay? Illustrated by Jessica Love. Cameron Kids, 2022. 978-1-951-83650-4. Unpaged. $18.99. Grades K-5.
As with many young children, the unnamed character in this picture book is anxious about life’s “what ifs?” With each new fear: “what if there is thunder and lightning?” or “what if I am mad at everyone?” and even “what if you die?” this child’s mother (parent relationship is assumed based on the similar features the adult and child share) assures her that everything will be okay. During a thunderstorm, simply listen to the thunder saying, “Look, look!” When you’re mad at everyone, sit by yourself “under a tree…[until] you are not mad at everyone.” And perhaps the most difficult question to answer is one about death, and the parent’s comforting response is “My loving doesn’t die. It stays with you.” With each question about life, the adult is able to validate the child’s fear and put her at ease with a response she understands. Love’s (Julián Is a Mermaid) mostly black and white illustrations are enhanced by bright shades of orange and yellow as this duo discusses the many ways it will be okay.
THOUGHTS: Regardless of the child’s fear, this mother assures her that she will be okay and gives her strategies to overcome her fear. Recommended for elementary collections.