6 Books for Kids Who Get Mad
My toddler’s anger is becoming more commonplace in my daily routine with her. I can see the spark of frustration when something isn’t easy or innate and that fist-curling, crying mad when she’s forced to do something she DOES. NOT. WANT. TO. DO. As I write this out, I feel a lot of compassion for her because these are things I struggle with on a daily basis, and yet I can verbalize how I feel, I can step away and take a breather, and, more importantly, I know what I should do (whether I do it is a totally different story) when I feel this way. And yes, I can even recognize how good it feels to just dissolve into a tantrum and let all that anger and hotheadedness flow out of my body.
As I was reading these books, I started wondering if I was reading them for my toddler or for myself. I think as you read them, you’ll feel the same. There are definitely moments in these stories that we can all relate to no matter our age or the amount of life experience we have.
Here are a few conversation starters you might want to try to help discuss anger:
What does your anger look and feel like?
What does it feel like when your anger goes away?
Last time you were mad, what made your anger go away?
For the kids who need tools to help manage their anger…
Little Unicorn Is Angry
Written and Illustrated by Aurélie Chien Chow Chine
Recommended Ages: 2-8 years
This book doesn’t have a story but walks us through how Little Unicorn expresses his anger and how he handles this emotion. In the beginning, Little Unicorn introduces a bunch of emotions and then focuses on anger. This makes sense because the author has several other books about Little Unicorn managing those other emotions.
As you read through the book, the character experiences specific situations that are very relatable to anyone with a toddler (for example, when Little Unicorn is mad for being forced to take a bath and then mad for having to come out of the water). Eventually, Little Unicorn has a tantrum and this would be a great point to pause and ask your child if they can relate to Little Unicorn and what they do when they get mad. One of my favorite parts of this book was how Little Unicorn visualized his anger and used a breathing technique to help control it. This is certainly worth trying next time when you have an angry munchkin on your hands.
The illustrations are simple—as you can see from the images, Little Unicorn is a cartoon-like figure on a plain white backdrop—with the exception of a few detailed scenes throughout the book. I do think this is helpful in the context of this book because it really lets you focus on the story’s message. When the scenes are more elaborate, they help build out the frustration, anger, and, ultimately, the resolution. I also greatly appreciated the expressions—the look on the mother’s face is just ::chef’s kiss::
Mad, Mad, Mad
Written and Illustrated by: Leslie Patricelli
Recommended Ages: 1 - 3 years old
Okay, this book is adorable. The main character is a baby and the story depicts the baby getting mad and, as a result, having that classic tantrum where nothing feels good and the baby is VERY vocal about it. I think my favorite part of this story is you can see that the baby wants to stop being so angry but it’s so overwhelming, the baby doesn’t know what to do or how.
Once the baby learns the breathing exercise, the baby feels better and points out that they figured out how to feel better on their own. As you near the end of the story, I really appreciated the acknowledgment that the baby will get mad again—and that’s okay!—but at least now they have a tool to help master their anger. At the very end, there’s a great illustration of all the things that help the baby’s “mad” go away. Highly recommend you and your child discuss what things help your child’s “mad” go away.
Similar to Little Unicorn Is Angry, this book’s illustrations are fairly simple. The style is very doodle-like and the expressiveness of the characters is top-notch. I really like that the solid color of the background is reflective of the mood and tone of the baby. And if you haven’t made that fearful / distressed face that we see the dad make as he hangs up the coat (see image 2 in the gallery), do you even interact with young kids?
For the kids who need to stew in their anger for a little bit…
When I See Red
Written and Illustrated by: Britta Teckentrup
Recommended Ages: 3-5 years
This book is simply gorgeous. From the text to the illustrations, it feels like you’re holding a work of art. While there’s no real story, it shows the tumult of the main character’s anger. There are a lot of descriptors to explain how the MC’s anger feels which is a great way to encourage your child to learn adjectives to describe their own anger. As you come across these words, consider asking if your child’s anger feels like any of the words listed. Additionally, the text rhymes so there’s a very melodic mouth-feel as you read the story aloud. This is definitely a book where I’d recommend using your voice acting skills!
Since there is no true story, I would say it’s really about feeling and living through your anger and letting it pass. It’s not about squelching the emotion or brushing it aside—it very much is about feeling it through and then coming out on the other side and being “free” from that emotional burden. If you’re a gentle / respectful parenting practitioner, I feel like this one will really resonate with you.
The illustrations pair with the descriptors the main character uses to describe anger. For example, in one part of the book, the main character says: “I’m a furious dragon you cannot ignore!” and the corresponding illustration is the 3rd image in the image gallery (above). As you can see, very evocative artwork.
On the very last page, where the publishing information is disclosed, there’s a quote the author included by Anni Lang, a Swiss human rights activist, about channeling your anger into change. I think that’s a beautiful note to end on but might be slightly more advanced for young readers.
I Want To Be Mad For A While!
Written and Illustrated by: Barney Saltzberg
Recommended Ages: 2-5 years
A great read for younger readers with simple text and illustrations that still conveys a lot, this book focuses on the main character’s need to, quite literally, stay mad for a while. You can see the adults try to cajole the main character out of a bad mood to no avail. The main character asks, “why do I have to be happy?” and, well, that’s true! Sometimes we’re so mad, it’s not even possible to think about being happy.
I admire that the main character recognizes that sometimes it is helpful to talk it out but in some cases, alone time and silence are better. This is a great way to show little ones that emotions aren’t linear—there isn’t a straight and narrow path for how you feel in a given situation. Similar to some of the other reads, once the main character’s anger resolves, there’s the acknowledgment that anger can and will happen again—just not right now.
This book is great for younger children (18+ months) and the text is simple enough for them to understand and follow along. I really like that the story respects the emotion and affirms that it’s okay to feel the way you feel and to feel it for a prolonged period of time.
Thanks for reading Readable Moments Book Club! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
For kids who have siblings that make them mad…
Written and Illustrated by: Tom Percival
Recommended Ages: 3-7 years
Ravi has 3 other siblings—all of whom are older and taller. He’s the youngest and the smallest. And that presents a lot of challenges sometimes. It’s difficult for Ravi to play and do the same things that his siblings are able to do. And, understandably, this builds Ravi’s frustration until he explodes in anger. In the story, we see Ravi transform from a kid to a tiger that roars to get things his way. Ravi rides that high where he can yell and scream to get his way but he realizes that’s isolating and no one wants to play with him anymore.
This story has done a lovely job of showing how difficult it can be to have siblings and that is indeed frustrating sometimes! When Ravi realizes he’s done something wrong, he apologizes. While many of the books I’ve outlined in this post are all about how to manage anger, it’s equally important to acknowledge some of the collateral damage that happens when we lose control. Ravi’s apology is simple but heartfelt. This is a great place to pause and ask kids why they think Ravi is apologizing.
The illustrations are lovely and very evocative. My favorite part is when Ravi turns into a tiger that is bright orange and the rest of the scene turns black and white—it reminds me of the tunnel vision we sometimes get when we’re angry. Every cell in our body, at that moment, is focused on one thing and one thing only: how we feel.
Way Past Mad
Written by: Hallee Adelman
Illustrated by: Sandra de la Prada
Recommended Ages: 4-7 years
The book starts off with why Keya, the main character, is upset—her younger brother Nate has ruined everything. And when she complains to her mom, her mom tells her to excuse Nate because of his age. This does nothing to calm Keya down and she gets angrier. Anyone with a sibling can commiserate! As Keya’s day continues she starts taking out her anger on Hooper, her best friend. When Hooper gets mad back, Keya feels bad. Keya apologizes and Hooper forgives her and all is well with the world again.
The sibling rivalry in this book is not the focus; instead, it’s set up as the source of Keya’s anger. Really, the plot is about how Keya isn’t able to control her emotions and how our emotions can impact those around us. This is appropriate for kids aged 4+ who are beginning to understand empathy and how our actions affect others. Keya realizes that she prefers maintaining her friendship with Hooper rather than being in a bad mood and apologizes to him. Again, there’s a great apology in this book and, even better, a simple acknowledgment of the apology.
It’s a very well-written book. The text is easy for readers to understand and follow along. There is a diverse cast of characters. The illustrations are very appealing with bright, colorful, and cozy scenes. The combination of the story and illustrations are sure to draw you in.
I changed up the way I write these posts and would love your feedback! Do you like this type of post better or the previous post formats (where I segment out books by age)?
Please feel free to share your feedback here!
Thank you for using (at no additional cost to you) the affiliate links in this post! :-)