As we’ve been discussing for all of June, the current emphasis in schools on developing emotional health in children prompted our selection of books. We chose books that discuss emotions common to children (loss, fear, anger) but with a twist. The emotions are personified within the story. Just as important, the books tell stories in which children are able to come to grips with these emotions. The focus is on the great story–not on a list of coping skills found at the end that are supposed to teach children and parents. This week, we discuss the emotion of anger in The Bad Mood and the Stick
MEGAN: The story of the Bad Mood and the Stick demonstrates that nobody is immune to having a bad mood, but also how easily humans can pick up and drop a bad mood. The story begins when Curly does not obtain any ice cream from the ice cream store and her mood immediately changes to a bad mood. Curly then finds a stick and, in her bad mood, decides to poke her little brother with the stick. Curly’s bad mood is lifted when she pokes her brother, though Curly’s bad mood is passed on to her mother who is upset because Curly poked her brother.
The bad mood is represented by a multi-colored cloud. Throughout the story, the reader witnesses the bad mood, stick, and cloud pass from one individual to another. Eventually the stick is given a new positive life as a home for a caterpillar, and for the most part the story shifts towards the positive. The gist of the story shows how infectious bad moods can be.
Everyone has experienced a bad mood at some time throughout their life and can relate to this story. It takes a realistic look at bad moods, and even how others’ discomfort (at times) can break our bad mood. Curly enjoys teasing her brother with the stick and her bad mood is lifted; her mother laughs when the carpenter slips in the mud. I think this book addresses bad moods as part of the human condition and does not delve deep into the causes, but rather acknowledges the subjectivity of moods.
MARIA: This was such an interesting book to read. I love books that truly represent the human nature, which is so complex! When Curly’s mom laughed at the carpenter’s muddy accident, I immediately thought about how some of the preservice teachers that I have encountered would have a hard time with the book because “it is not teaching”, particularly good behavior. Well, I appreciate a book that can remind us that, more often than not, authors write to tell their stories, rather than to “teach about something”. It also speaks to the importance of reading text sets, rather than a single book by itself.
Then the carpenter yells at the dry cleaner’s customer service attendant. Interesting enough, instead of her reacting to what could be considered as a disrespectful interaction, she seems to observe, perhaps notice, and let it go, which ends up helping the carpenter deal with his bad mood. This event surprised me because it breaks the pattern in the story by reminding the reader that people will react and respond differently to life events based on prior experiences and many other intersecting factors. Megan, did you notice that even the cat in the story is affected by the bad mood? What an invitation to explore perspectives around animals and feelings!
MEGAN: I think this book offers opportunities to explore numerous invitations; an animal’s feelings are definitely a good area to pursue. I think another valuable use is the opportunity to talk about how we do and do not take responsibility for our moods and subsequent behavior. This book shows how easily people can fall in (and out of) a bad or good mood. I like exploring how much control we have over our own feelings. We all know individuals who are dramatic and bring drama into our lives, which I know I try to avoid. How much are people responsible for the way they feel? There definitely could be a conversation about the way people act on their feelings, but what about their actual feelings? Do we always have the right to feel the way we do or is it better to not always give into our gut feelings initially in order to allow events to process in our minds prior to acting?
MARIA: Do we have the right to feel…? Oh yes! I mean, we are emotional beings so we are always feeling something. I think the uneasiness emerges when emotions like anger or sadness are expressed within social contexts that treat these emotions as problems, rather than part of the human experience. This is what I like about The Bad Mood and The Stick, the bad mood is just another emotion. The narrative is not trying to fix it and none of the characters seem to feel less because they are experiencing frustration or anger.
In terms of responses, I think that we should be responsible for our actions. I’m thinking particularly about actions in response to frustration, anger, hopelessness, fear or greed. Those could lead to real damage to oneself or to those around us. I think books like this one are important windows into conversation about what makes us human, and the complexities of being human. While I believe that it is important to support children in developing ownership over their actions, it is also important to keep in mind that under extenuating circumstances people might respond in surprising ways. Therefore, exploring these unexpected (and probably conflicting or troubling) perspectives will also be important to reach a broader and deeper understanding of how we are human, and how to be better humans.
Title:The Bad Mood and the Stick
Date Published:October 3, 2017
This is the third installment of this month’s My Take/Your Take. Last week we discussed Orion and the Dark, and the first week of June we discussed Life Without Nico. Check back next week to keep following the conversation!