Along with all their other powers, stories can have considerable influence on our moods. Whether you’re looking for something that reflects your current mood, or something that will change it, sometimes a good story is just the thing. The challenge is in knowing what book to pull off the shelf. You probably have a few reliable favourites for such purposes — I know I do! This week’s Ten focuses on picture books for their simplicity of focus, but I think most will appeal to readers of any age.
When you’re feeling disgusted by injustice
The Paper Bag Princess written by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko
When a dragon burns down Princess Elizabeth’s castle and kidnaps the prince she was supposed to marry, she picks herself up, puts on the only thing left to wear (a paper bag), and sets off to correct the dragon and retrieve her prince. Whether Prince Ronald is worth keeping around post-rescue does nothing to diminish the value of Princess Elizabeth’s take-charge heroism.
When you’re feeling lonesome for someone
The Heart and the Bottle written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
After an important person in a little girl’s life dies, she closes up her heart in a bottle to keep it safe from future harm. In time the cost of living “safe” becomes too much, and the girl decides that living all of life is worth the risk of an open heart.
When you’re feeling shy
When No One Is Watching written by Eileen Spinelli and illustrated by David A. Johnson
A little girl describes the contrast between the freedom she feels when she is on her own and her tendency to be quiet and defer to others when she’s not. She notes at the end of the story that when she is with her similarly shy friend, both feel comfortable being as silly as they like.
When you’re feeling mischievous
Really, any Olivia (written and illustrated by Ian Falconer) or Eloise (written by Kay Thompson and illustrated by Hilary Knight) book will do. These need no further explanation.
When you’re feeling quiet (or harried!)
The Quiet Book written by Deborah Underwood and illustrated by Renata Liwska
A variety of woodland creatures demonstrate the many kinds of quiet one can experience, from “Swimming underwater quiet” to “Pretending you’re invisible quiet.” If you don’t feel more relaxed and peaceful by the end of this book, go back and read it again. Recommended by Kate Milford (and now by me!).
When you’re feeling hard done by
Revenge of the Small Small written by Jean Little and illustrated by Janet Wilson
Patsy is the youngest of the Small siblings, and she doesn’t get much respect. In fact, when she gets chicken pox herself after spending a week bringing drinks and books to her sick siblings, all three of them are too busy to reciprocate. Patsy’s revenge gets unexpected responses from both her siblings and her father that will be most satisfying to the reader.
When you’re feeling like the world’s all grey
The Red Tree written and illustrated by Shaun Tan
There doesn’t seem to be much hope on offer in this protagonist’s life. Everything is grey, ending, rather than beginning, while the world goes on in bright colour and activity just beyond the window. At the end of the day, though, a scrap of promise — the beginning of the red tree — offers better things to come.
When you’re feeling like you just don’t measure up
Ish written and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
After Ramon’s brother teases him about his drawings, Ramon finds he can no longer draw well enough to satisfy himself no matter how hard he tries. Discovering that someone else treasures his work suggests a new perspective, though, and Ramon returns to his drawings encouraged.
Sidney and Norman: A Tale of Two Pigs written by Phil Vischer and illustrated by Justin Gerard
In contrast with his seemingly perfect neighbour, Norman, Sidney is a mess. No matter how hard he tries, everything around him ends up messy, late, or lost. Summoned one day to visit God in his office, Sidney learns that perfection — or lack thereof — is not the part of a person that’s valuable. Whether you believe in God or not, sometimes the reminder that someone loves you regardless of how well you meet your own, or others’, standards is precisely the comfort you need.
When you’re feeling wide awake (not exactly a mood, but the experience is relatable, and I wanted to share this book)
Russell the Sheep written and illustrated by Rob Scotton
While all the rest of the sheep get ready for bed and nod off, Russell finds himself utterly incapable of sleep. He tries counting things, but even that doesn’t work — he successfully counts all the visible stars. Twice. — until he lands upon the strangely effective practice of counting sheep.