Angry Arthur

Hiawyn Oram (Author) Satoshi Kitamura (Illustrator)
Penguin: 2008 (first published 1982)
ISBN: 9781849395885
Age: 4+

Reviewed by Viv Young

Arthur wants to keep watching the western on TV, but his mum tells him to go to bed. Arthur is so angry, his rage literally tears his world apart.

This is a classic picture book and like most great literature open to interpretation. It’s worth checking out a few reviews of this book for the lasting impact it has had on some readers. Many reviewers focus on the story’s lesson about the all consuming nature of anger that may eventually cause a person to forget why they were angry in the first place. What I particularly like about this story is, however, the wildness of Arthur’s rage. Not many children’s books portray the out of control nature of childhood anger quite like this one, or its frightening aspects.

It is worth noting that the adult figures in this book are not empathetic to Arthur’s anger. They all say the same thing, ‘That’s enough!’, to which the reply is ‘but it wasn’t’. This reply may, for some readers, be a validation of the need to express extreme anger in the form of temper tantrums which, as parents are increasingly aware, are a normal part of learning to regulate emotions. The mother figure portrayed as a distorted shadow in the first scenes is potentially scary for very young children. But the pet cat, who accompanies Arthur throughout his ordeal, provides both a relief from the loneliness of Arthur’s predicament and humour. Indeed, the artwork generally provides elements of humour in what can be a confronting if also rewarding picture book experience.

Horrible Bear!

Ame Dyckman (author) Zachariah OHora (illustrator)
Andersen Press: London, 2020
ISBN: 9781783444816
ISBN: 9781783445141
Age: 3+

Reviewed by Viv Young

A bear has broken a girl’s kite. ‘Horrible Bear!’ says the girl. But Bear does not believe he’s horrible; he didn’t mean to break the kite. But as he thinks about the girl’s accusation and her own behaviour he starts to have a ‘horrible bear idea’…

Horrible Bear! is an honest story that presents the complexity of anger in a realistic way for children by exploring the whole gamut of emotions that cluster around a disagreement, from anger, indignation, and revenge, to sadness, forgiveness, and compassion. Ame Dyckman treats all these emotions with a light touch and an eye for entertainment; the girl’s repeated outbursts of ‘Horrible Bear!’ and the bear’s own roaring provide lots of opportunities for smaller readers to join in and to giggle. Zachariah OHora’s rendering of the big bear’s eye-brows and the big red hair of the little girl are great for focusing on the emotions flowing throughout the text. There’s also a surprise ending which will have you looking back through the pictures and noticing the wonderful subtlety of the story they tell.   

Izzy Gizmo

Pip Jones (author) Sarah Ogilvie (illustrator)
Simon and Schuster: 2017
ISBN: 9780857075130
Age: 3+

Reviewed by Viv Young

Izzy Gizmo loves to invent but when her gadgets don’t work the way she intended them to, Izzy gets a little mad. Grandpa tells her not to give up and when an injured crow needs her creative genius to help him fly again, Izzy tries hard to follow Grandpa’s advice.

This fun rhyming story about a young inventor overcoming the frustrations of creative work is full of laughs and poignant moments too. With her big boots, round glasses and expressive facial expressions, Izzy is a relatable genius-inventor for young people. and a fantastic character with which to discuss emotions, such as anger, frustration, and disappointment. The vivid palette of Sarah Ogilvie with its bright oranges, pinks, and yellows do justice to the strength of Izzy’s emotions as well as her creative flare. The encouraging role of grandpa and the collaborative role of the crow also provide a subtle message that no-one has to be alone with these tough emotions and accepting help can be useful.

Red Red Red

Polly Dunbar
Walker Books: 2019
ISBN: 9781406376968
Age: 3+

Reviewed by Viv Young

A young child, narrating a quest for the cookie jar, quickly becomes enraged when the jar is hard to reach.

Red Red Red explores pre-schooler frustration and anger with great fun and empathy. The child narrator’s tone escalates quickly from indignation at her mother’s soothing words to outright anger, mirroring the strong and sudden emotions of many young people. The mother is always understanding and her suggestion—counting to ten—is gentle, respectful and, best of all, a sound practical measure that can be tried at home.

The artwork for Red Red Red focuses especially on the child and the physical nature of anger—the screaming, head banging, and stomping are conveyed with extra oomph. There is also the liberal use of red—frenzied crayon-like scribbles radiate from the child character, increasing and decreasing as the anger rises and falls. This creative use of red is fun to notice and provides a vivid illustration of the bigness of anger as well as the relief when frustration is resolved satisfactorily.

This is an entertaining and cathartic story that can help children register anger and learn some tools to manage it.   

The Most Magnificent Thing

Ashley Spires
Kids Can Press: 2014
ISBN: 9781554537044
Age: 3+

Reviewed by Viv Young

A girl has a wonderful idea; she is going to make the most magnificent thing. Her best friend and assistant—a dog— is going to help. The girl and her assistant make things all the time, so this should be ‘easy-peasy’. But then it’s not. She tries and tries and becomes more and more agitated, until she bangs her finger and finally explodes. The girl is about to give up when her assistant makes a suggestion that may just help her achieve her goal.

This is a most magnificent story that will no doubt resonate with readers of all ages who have experienced frustration in pursuit of a dream. It treats children’s play and the potential for frustration and anger seriously and with a true-to-life sense of how these emotions may gradually build up. The resolution of the story offers a practical solution (taking a break) to the problem of frustration and anger, and it has real world application. The illustrations use shadow, frames, outline, and a selective palette to highlight the girl as she goes about her creative process. They are perfect for little ones following the development of the ‘most magnificent thing’ and for starting a conversation about the emotions the girl is experiencing.

When I’m Feeling Angry

Trace Moroney
Five Mile Press: Victoria, 2005 (reprint 2019)
ISBN: 978174124 5028
Age: 4+

Reviewed by Viv Young

In When I’m Feeling Angry, a small bunny narrator explains what happens when he feels angry; he describes the feeling and how he wants to kick and scream and stomp. It is bunny that tells the reader that anger is okay as long as one doesn’t hurt others. He also suggests some simple ways he likes to manage his anger through breathing and talking.

Part of the Feelings series, When I’m Feeling Angry is a clear and concise guide to anger for young children with practical suggestions for managing anger that parents can help children absorb. Trace Moroney’s adorable bunny illustrations, combined with tactile pages (at least in the hardback version), will appeal to many children and help them stay on the page when reading about a potentially difficult topic. There’s also an attempt to conceptualise the emotions being discussed in the illustrations and portray them in the bunny’s facial expression too.

Make sure you turn to the end pages. You’ll find some helpful information here written by a Melbourne psychologist especially for parents. This section focuses on how to raise kids with healthy self-esteem but importantly discusses the connection between self-esteem and the management of feelings such as anger.


Edited by Sylvie Michel and Hannah Daffern

Buster Books 2019

Great Britain

ISBN 9780316531788

Ages 4- 8 years

Little Unicorn is Angry by Aurelie Chien Chow Chine describes how the character of Little Unicorn uses a simple breathing technique to soothe himself and blow his anger away.  It is not so much a narrative as a child friendly instruction manual showing how to recognise and deal with anger. It is one in a series of four books dealing with the emotional states of Little Unicorn.   It may be useful to parents or carers who wish to introduce their children to the concept of emotional self regulation.

Although it is quite a wordy book for a young age group, it could easily be broken up into sections by the adult reader and opened at relevant sections when needed.  The first few pages focus on giving a name to common emotional states. This includes a page which pairs an illustration to an emotional state in order to help a child indicate what they are feeling in the present moment.  This followed by several pages which provide suggestions for what could be making Little Unicorn Angry.  Many of these might be recognisable to parents and their children, such as not wanting to get in the bath, and then, not wanting to get out of the bath.  The depiction of Little Unicorn when he is angry also includes the distinction between grumpy and angry.  The next section introduces a breathing technique that Little Unicorn performs in order to “chase away a cloud of anger”.  The final page shows that Little Unicorn is feeling much calmer after the breathing exercise and suggests that the reader might like to use the same breathing technique. 

The format of the book is a small square with glossy pages. The illustrations focus on a cute, rotund, cartoon unicorn whose mane changes colour depending on his emotional state. The illustrations are non gender specific, though the text indicates that the unicorn is male.  The emphasis of the illustrations are on Little Unicorn’s emotional expression, which includes facial expressions as well as physical posture, such as hands on hips or stomping on the floor. There is a combination of full page illustrations and smaller symbolic drawings which add meaning to the text.

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