There are some exceptional new picture books that deal with emotions. One reason they’re great is because the stories function both as learning tools, and as fun read-alouds. I personally don’t love a story that is too in-your-face with a message, and although the following list includes some titles that are quite clear in their mission – the stories are engaging enough to stand as favorite picture books regardless of teaching aspects.
Peace, Baby! by Linda Ashman
The concept of peace is paired with soft illustrations and huggable characters. This book is intended for the preschool crowd, and thus, the message of steering away from negative behavior in the form of “peace” is not as obvious as the cover might suggest. The text rhymes and the illustrations are complete conversation starters, as they depict the situations from which negative feelings sprung.
Happiness is a Watermelon on Your Head by Daniel Hahn
This is a silly, ridiculous account of Miss Jolly and her unwavering happiness. People in the town become annoyed, confused, and jealous due to her constant good spirit. Rhyming text tells of competition as everyone tries to be happier than their whimsical neighbor. The bright, quirky illustrations add to the fun of this story of finding your own joy.
Cranky Doodle by Tom Angleberger
We all know the story of good ol’ Yankee Doodle and his pony, feather, etc. etc. Well, what if he was a cynical fellow and not so good natured about his situation? This zany tale is a conversation between a man and his pony. The pony is trying to get his owner out into town for some fun, but hits excuses at every suggestion. This title will have kids and parents laughing. The pictures are just as bold as Cranky himself – and the ending has a little historical twist!
Little Raccoon Learns to Share by Mary Packard
This is a fairly simple story about learning to share. Little Raccoon and her animal friends are very expressive and the sweet illustration can easily be used as a “how are they feeling?” jumping off point. The drawings feel reminiscent of Golden Books depicting woodland animals (80’s reference alert!) Little Raccoon eventually shares in order to be included in a party. This is a teaching book, and Little Raccoon is a character children will identify with.
Bully by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
This is my favorite out of the bunch. It is unique in the wordplay of the angry, sad cartoon Bull that wants to make everyone else feel bad. There are very few words on each page – but they are perfectly put. The various animals and their cowering continues page to page, and the Bull actually becomes larger as the story moves on. Even young children will understand the significance of this artistic choice, even if they cannot vocalize it. In the end, the Bull learns what has happened to everyone around him, and becomes small. There is a hint of laughter in the pages, but no doubt this should be on every bookshelf as a way to remind children how to treat others.
Shop! Find these hand-picked recommendations and all the What’s the Story? books in The Shopping Mama’s Amazon store.