Recently I picked up a cute little book called Badger’s Bad Mood at the local library. When I started to write about it for the blog, I realized that it might make more of an impact to be connected with other books about moods and how to deal with them, so a new trip to the library was hatched. Here are a few books that we have found that talk about depression, mood and emotions. What I find impressive is how the books talk about getting out of a funk. They try to point out that it is important to help those around you and to help yourself. Try as we might, there are days when we feel down. I know that my kids have learned from the new movie, Inside Out, that there is nothing wrong with sadness. As my daughters and I agreed, the best memories in the film were those that were created with a mix of sadness and joy.
In the book that started me on this thought process, Badger’s Bad Mood, poor Badger has got the blues and no one knows what to do about it. The animals in the forest depend on Badger and look to him as their rock, so they are at a loss when Badger can’t get out of his funk (somewhat like a parent).
Lucky for Badger, his friend Mole sticks it out and just is there for Badger hoping that time will make him feel more like his old self. When that doesn’t work, Mole comes up with another plan. Mole decides to throw an awards ceremony with music and food afterwards. Even Badger seems to come out of his stupor when Mole says, “You’ll have to come, of course. A little bird tells me you may be getting something.”
Mole goes back to his home and creates awards for all of the forest animals and a whole bunch for Badger. Badger makes it to the part and is honored with a wide variety of awards. Badger realizes that Mole thought up the whole thing and is incredibly appreciative. He thinks Mole deserves his own award because sometimes everyone needs to know how much they are loved and appreciated.
This is an important lesson for all of us, parents and children alike. Sometimes we all just need to hear that we are appreciated for what we do – cleaning up a bedroom when no one asked, bringing in your dinner dishes, making a special meal.
In the beautifully illustrated Virginia Wolf, by Kyo Maclear and Isabelle Arsenault, the book shows both literal and metaphorical realities of depression. One day Vanessa’s sister woke up feeling wolfish. She didn’t want to be around anyone and was bothered by noises that her sister made. “The whole house sank. Up became down. Bright became dim. Glad became gloom.” The person who is depressed often doesn’t realize it, but one person’s depression can impact an entire house. Vanessa tried to cheer Virginia up in many ways. Finally, she was inspired to create a beautiful new world full of a lush magical garden and wide open spaces. Virginia finally started to come out of her shell and see the beauty in the world around her and her wolfish demeanor morphs back to reveal her normal girlish form. Adults know of the true Virginia Wolf who suffered so terribly from depression. This book can touch children and adults in a variety of ways showing the lightness and darkness that are inside of all of us.
The Pout-Pout Fish is a well known book about a fish who believes that it is his destiny to spread the “dreary-wearies all over the place.” All of the other sea animals try to convince him to turn his frown upside down. They let him know that they don’t really like being greeted with scowls and would rather that he radiate a little joy and hope. He always responds that he has no choice because he is a pout-pout fish. One day a new fish swims in, plants a kiss on his face and swims away. Mr. Pout-pout realizes that he had it all wrong. He isn’t a pouting fish, but a kissing fish who spreads cheery-cheeries all over the place. The book is silly, but it gets the point across beautifully that no one really likes being around someone who is sad all the time and that we need to find the positives in the world around us and in ourselves.
Another book that is great for talking about how our actions impact those around us is the marvelous book, How Full is Your Bucket? We first heard of this book when J entered kindergarten and her class had a bucket to fill instead of each child being somewhere on the red light/green light spectrum. This book explains that we all have invisible buckets of water over our heads. When people are mean to us, or when we are mean to others, our buckets can empty a little. But when we are kind to others or when others are kind to us, our buckets get filled. Young Felix learns about this from his grandfather when he is unkind to his little sister. He wakes up the next morning with an actual bucket over his head and sees how it gets filled and emptied throughout the day. This is a nicely illustrated way to show how your actions have a bigger impact then you might think and has been used wonderfully as a teaching tool for younger elementary school classes.
You can’t talk about bad moods without talking about the perennially classic Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. As the book starts out, “I went to sleep with gum in my mouth and now there’s gum in my hair and when I got out of bed this morning I tripped on the skateboard and by mistake I dropped my sweater in the sink while the water was running and I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.” This book might seem like a child whining and repeatedly threatening to move to Australia, but then again, it is and there is a time and a place for that. The book is written in a way that totally works for kids and many often clamor for it to be read over and over again. Everything is a run-on sentence and little issues feel more like huge events that will make this “the worst day of my entire life.” That’s a phrase that my kids like to say. We are constantly vacillating between the worst day and the best day, in a matter of 10 minutes! Everyone can commiserate with Alexander and realize that their problems aren’t so very bad after all and tomorrow is always another day.
Finally, I came across the book Yesterday I had the Blues. Yesterday one boy had the blues and had them bad–not just the ordinary blues, the “deep down in my shoes” blues, the “go away Mr. Sun quit smilin’ at me” blues. But today he’s traded in those blues for greens, the “runnin’ my hands along the hedges” greens, the kind of greens that make him want to be Somebody. This book does a marvelous job looking at the emotions we face on a day to day basis and also highlights that our family members go through different emotions as well. His dad has they grays and his ballet happy sister has the pinks. Gram has the yellows, which seem like a golden ray of sunshine to me (especially when compared to Mama’s reds on the next page). There are a rainbow of emotions out there that we have to deal with on a daily basis and this book does a great job of showing a wide variety of them.
It is hard to teach children about emotions. I’ve loved being able to have conversations about them due to the movie Inside Out, but these books are another great resource for us.