Does it ever feel like there’s a constant pressure on to be happy and to only ever experience positive emotions? (Nevermind the fact that we divide up the emotions between positive & negative, thereby already biasing them to be thought of as either good or bad for you.)
Well here are some picture books that talk about (negative) emotions and acknowledge them as being part and parcel of being human (… strictly speaking, animal, since when they feature, the humans involved are not the ones experiencing the negative emotions). Some of them discuss how it’s perfectly OK to be experiencing these ups and downs, whereas others highlight what emotions such as fear and jealousy (or in this particular case, the selfish personality of the giraffe) hold you back from the possibility of experiencing things you could never have previously imagined.
Grumpy Monkey by Suzanne Lang, illustrated by Max Lang, is great at portraying how sometimes our grumpiness can seem completely illogical: there’s nothing to be grumpy about, but you know what? We all wake up on the wrong side of the bed some days, and that’s alright! Having your friends there to be there for you, even if what they’re doing isn’t cheering you up per se, can be a boon to your emotional state. Grumpy Monkey yells at his friends, denying his grumpiness, but it’s when he actually accepts that yes, he just might be grumpy, and yes, his friends do still love & care for him, that he starts to feel a bit better.
May I introduce you to the inhabitants of our fruit bowl here that you’ll find in Fruit Bowl, by Mark Hoffmann: Apple, Peach, Banana, Lemon, Orange, Pear, Strawberry, Grapes, Lime, Blueberry, and Tomato. Wait – tomato? Slightly creepy (just look at those faces) but ever so adorable (in that “it’s weird but I love it” kind of way) – complete with arguably some of the best puns of all time in children’s fiction – Tomato makes his case to the fruit bowl denizens that tomatoes are, indeed, a fruit. But why stop there? It’s not just tomatoes! A whole lineup of other unlikely fruits gravitate in line to the fruit bowl from the crisper in the fridge, finally gaining the ability to be recognized for what they truly are. Read it to find out what else belongs in the fruit bowl!
A delightful read, though I have to admit with a somewhat ambiguous takeaway; is Hoffmann just tackling the issue of what makes a fruit a fruit, or are we actually talking about in-groups and out-groups? Also, why are vegetables presented as being lesser than fruits? Why does everyone want to be a fruit? Or do they just want to be recognized for who/what they really are? I’m also interested in why Tomato is male, because do tomatoes (the fruit) even have sexes?*, but that might be a discussion for another time – I absolutely adored this book from beginning to end, literally cover to cover.
Whatever I was expecting when I picked this book up, Francesca Sanna completely exceeded them. I’d like to add this as a read-a-like to Why? (Nikolai Popov) and The Terrible Things (Eve Bunting), which I wrote about earlier, in that the reader is not spared for even a moment some of the experiences of refugees and migrants, and all of the authors do a spectacular job of opening up conversation about these heavier topics.
I’ll just quote Sanna’s blurb on her inspiration for writing The Journey:
The Journey is actually a story about many journeys, and it began with the story of two girls I met in a refugee center in Italy. After meeting them I realized that behind their journey lay something very powerful. So I began collecting more stories of migration and interviewing many people from many different countries. A few months later, in September 2014, when I started studying a Master of Arts in Illustration at the Academy of Lucerne, I knew I wanted to create a book about these true stories. Almost every day on the news we hear the terms “migrants” and “refugees” but we rarely ever speak to or hear the personal journeys that they have had to take. This book is a collage of all those personal stories and the incredible strength of the people within them.
I hope you pick up this book and go on a journey of your own through the story, because both the text and the illustrations complement each other well, making for an experience you won’t soon forget. Find below the cut some more suggested reads from the junior section about immigrant experiences, and displacement.