If You’re Happy and You Know It: A Storytime about Feelings

Emotions are a storytime theme that I do fairly regularly, because I think it’s so important for kids (and adults!) to learn how to recognize and name their feelings. And I’ve heard a number of news stories recently about how in the aftermath of the past year and a half, schools are seeing a lot more kids struggling to express their emotions in healthy ways. So for this storytime, I pulled out three of my favorite books about feelings for a fun (if chilly) storytime at San Pedro Valley Park.

Here are the books and songs that we did:


The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld

This is one of those books that I feel is just as instructive for the parent or caregiver reading the story, as it is for the child listening to it. When a flock of crows knocks down Taylor’s block tower, all of the animals rush in to offer advice. The chicken wants to talk about it, the bear wants to yell about it, the snake wants knock down someone else’s tower. But Taylor doesn’t want to do any of those things. Finally, a rabbit creeps up to just sit quietly and listen to all of Taylor’s sadness and anger, until Taylor is ready to build a new tower. This book does such a wonderful job of describing all of the impulses that strong feelings can evoke, and it’s also a great reminder to grown-ups that sometimes it’s best to just be there with your kids while they are working through those feelings (something I definitely struggle to remember as a parent). It’s also just a fun read-aloud.

Mouse Was Mad by Linda Urban and Henry Cole

When Mouse gets mad, he tries out lots of different ways to express his feeling: hopping, screaming, stomping, rolling on the ground. But the other animals always want to tell him how to do things better: Bobcat is an expert at screaming; Bear can make the ground shake with his powerful stomps; and Hedgehog can roll up into a perfect sphere. Even worse, every time Mouse tries to copy them, he ends up falling into a mud puddle. Finally, Mouse just stands still and breathes, something he can do better than any other animal, and, in the end, he feels better. For this book, my coworker Angela used a mouse puppet to act out the different motions while I read, and we encouraged the kids to stomp, scream, hop, and breathe along with Mouse.

My Friend is Sad by Mo Willems

This was one of the first Elephant and Piggie books, and I think it’s still my favorite. When Piggie sees that her friend, Gerald, is sad, she tries to cheer him up by dressing as a cowboy, a clown, and a robot. But this makes Gerald sadder than ever. Why? Because his best friend isn’t there to see these amazing things with him. Angela and I each read a different character, which is one of my favorite ways to share the books in this series.


Did You Ever See a Rabbit?

Angela used a rabbit puppet to act out the motions to this version of Did You Ever See a Lassie? while the kids and I pretended to be rabbits. For the different verses, we leaned left and right, stretched up and crouched down, and made little rabbit ears with our fingers which we moved in a circle clockwise, and then counter-clockwise. This is a really versatile action song for storytime, since you can sing it about any animal:

Did you ever see a rabbit, a rabbit, a rabbit?

Did you ever see a rabbit go this way (lean to the left) and that? (lean to the right)

Go this way (lean left) and that way, (lean right)

And this way (lean left) and that way, (lean right)

Did you ever see a rabbit go this way (lean left) and that? (lean right)

If You’re Happy and You Know It

Naturally, I had to include this song, and my favorite way to do it is to add in different emotions for each verse. This time we did: If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands; If you’re sad and you know it, cry “Boo-hoo!”; If you’re angry and you know it, say “I’m mad!” If you’re sleepy and you know it, yawn and stretch; If you’re shy and you know it, hide your face… peek-a-boo!; If you’re cold and you know it, snuggle close (hug yourself or your grown-up); and If you’re happy and you know it, shout “Hooray!” Here are the chords for guitar or ukulele:

[C] If you’re happy and you know it, clap your [G7] hands (clap, clap)

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your [C] hands (clap, clap)

If you’re [F] happy and you know it, and you [C] really want to show it,

If you’re [G7] happy and you know it, clap your [C] hands! (clap, clap)

Happy Face, Happy Face, What Do You See?

Angela led this rhyme, using paper plates with drawings depicting different emotions. You can also sing this to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.

Happy Face, Happy Face, what do you see?

I see a Sad Face, looking at me!

Sad Face, Sad Face, what do you see?

I see an Angry Face looking at me!

Angry Face, Angry Face, what do you see?

I see a Surprised Face looking at me!

Surprised Face, Surprised Face, what do you see?

I see a Sleepy Face looking at me!

Sleepy Face, Sleepy Face, what do you see?

I see a Happy Face looking at me!

Breathing Colors

We did this easy breathing exercise to go along with Mouse Was Mad. I learned it from the Library Explorer camps our library system offered this past summer, which always opened with a series of mindfulness activities. I use this one all the time as a stretching break, especially for elementary school kids.

The first time I demonstrate it, I stretch my arms out to either side and then lift them up as I take a deep breath in. Once my hands are over my head, I clap them together, and then bring them down in front of my face as I breathe out. We usually do this together at least once.

The second time, I tell the kids to picture a great big bubble full of their favorite color that stretches out to their fingertips. When they clap their hands, I tell them to picture their favorite color spilling down onto their heads. Then I have them picture their second favorite color as we stretch and breathe together again. It’s a great way to refocus your group, especially after a really active song.


If this had been an indoor storytime, I would have loved to do watercolor painting along with different types of music, and asked the kids to paint the way the music makes them feel. But since watercolor painting requires a lot of supplies and set-up, I gave them Dot Markers instead. These are always a huge hit, especially with toddlers, who can move them smoothly across the page to make colorful lines, or bang them repeatedly on the paper to make colorful dots. The grown-ups enjoyed them too. The only hard thing was gathering up the supplies when it was time to go back to the branch, because some of the toddlers had very strong feelings about putting their markers back in the box!

What are your favorite songs or books about Emotions? Please share them in the comments.


What a Feeling! Books about Emotions

Emotion Wheel by Olivia

Emotion Wheel by Olivia

This week for Family Storytime, I read books about emotions.  I noticed that most of the books out there with that theme focus on negative emotions like anger and fear, but they are some of my favorites.  Here are the ones we read:


What are You So Grumpy About? by Tom Lichtenheld (Amazon.com link)

This book does a great job of illustrating the frustrations of being a kid: boring grown-up conversations that never end; trips to dull museums; bland grown-up cereals.  Tom Lichtenheld takes each one to an hilarious extreme, ending with the worst: somebody making you laugh when you were trying to be grumpy, and making you forget what you were grumpy about.  This one always gets laughs, from the parents as well as the kids.


My Friend is Sad by Mo Willems (Amazon.com link)

My favorite of the Elephant and Piggie books, and one of the best for very beginning readers.   When Piggie sees that Gerald is sad, she tries to cheer him up by dressing as a cowboy, a clown, and a robot, but only makes him feel worse.  I had the kids say the repeated “Ohhhhh”s along with Gerald.   A good, funny story about friendship as well as emotion.  The kids all loved it.  By now they are all so familiar with Gerald and Piggie books that they couldn’t wait to get to the end page, which always has Mo Willem’s Pigeon hidden inside of one of the illustrations.


Mouse Was Mad by Linda Urban; illustrated by Henry Cole (Amazon.com link)

This is one of the best picture books about coping with anger.   Mouse is so angry, he jumps up and down, stomps his feet, screams, and rolls on the ground.  The problem is that other animals (hare, bear, bobcat, and hedgehog), each do those things much better, and when he tries to emulate them, he always ends up falling into a mucky mud puddle and getting even angrier.  Finally, he stands still…and breathes…something he can do better than anyone else.  A great way to teach an important skill for regaining calm, but taught in the context of a lively, non-preachy read-aloud.  My daughter, who could teach bobcat a thing or two about screaming, loves this book, so I’m hoping its quiet lesson will rub off.


Crankenstein by Samantha Berger; illustrated by Dan Santat (Amazon.com link)

Another funny book about being grumpy.  Crankenstein is a monster.  When you say, “Good Morning!  How are you?” he says, “MEHRRRR!”  He also says “MEHRRR” to lots of other things: getting ready for school, standing in long lines, and going to bed.  But then he meets another Crankenstein, who makes him laugh.  The kids enjoyed joining in on the “MEHRRR’s,” and this one grabbed the attention of some of the boys who love monsters.


If You’re Happy And You Know It:  I added new verses with other emotions: If you’re sad and you know it, cry ‘Boohoo!’;  If you’re shy and you know it, hide your face…peek-a-boo!;  If you’re grumpy and you know it, stomp your feet; etc.


My Energy by Laurie Berkner from Under a Shady Tree (Amazon.com link)

CRAFT: Emotion wheel

Emotion wheel by Sarah

Emotion wheel by Sarah

This was an easy craft I found on the Allen County Public Library Youth Services web site, on a page with a list of other good books and songs about emotions.  I adapted it a little, and created a Word document with circles for the kids to draw faces in.  You can print the template here.  I also cut out arrows out of cardstock, and punched holes in them for the metal brads (I attached the arrows to the page ahead of time because that part seemed a little tricky, and the brads are a bit sharp.  I just pushed them through the middle of the paper and twisted them a bit until the arrow could spin easily, then separated the metal tabs on the back of the page to hold them in place).

The kids had fun drawing in their faces.  I liked that this made for a simple reading activity too, since they had to learn the emotion word (happy, sad, angry, or scared), in order to know what kind of face to draw.


The great thing about this theme is that you can really use just about any picture book and talk about the emotions the characters may be feeling.

Today I Feel Silly: And Other Moods that Make My Day by Jamie Lee Curtis; illustrated by Laura Cornell (Amazon.com link)

One of the few celebrity authors I actually like.  In this book Jamie Lee Curtis explores a wide range of emotions based on situations that kids can easily relate to: feeling angry at not being included in a friend’s playdate; being sad after a fight with a friend; feeling happy at learning how to do something new.  The text is simple, well-written rhymed verse, and the illustrations are whimsical and full of feeling.  The book comes with an emotion wheel at the back, although I noticed the one from the library copy we have was missing.

How Are You Peeling?  Foods with Moods by Saxton Freymann and Joost Eiffers (Amazon.com link)

The emotional vegetables and fruits in this book, all made from actual food, are hilarious: angry peppers, kissing strawberries, joyful peas.  This is a great book for a food-themed storytime as well.

Baby Happy, Baby Sad by Leslie Patricelli (Amazon.com link)

Perfect for babies, toddlers, and beginning readers, this board book goes through all the things that make baby happy (getting an ice cream!) and sad (dropping the ice cream).

Katie Loves the Kittens by John Himmelman (Amazon.com link)

I’m including this one because it does a great job of conveying a common experience that everyone, especially young kids, can relate to: being SO excited that you rush in and do something you regret later.  This story is about an adorable dog named Katie, and three little kittens.  When her owner brings home three new kittens, Katie can’t contain herself: she rushes in howling and scares the kittens.  Then she feels ashamed and sad.  The cycle repeats several times, until she finally learns to control her excitement.  The illustrations are darling (no one conveys shame better than a dog), and it’s a terrific read-aloud, with lots of opportunities for kids to howl.

Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney (Amazon.com link)

Another story all parents and kids can relate to: Llama Llama feels alone and scared in bed, while Mama Llama is on the phone downstairs.  Adorable rhyming book with wonderful illustrations.  Many of the other Llama Llama books (Llama Llama Mad at Mama; Llama Llama Misses Mama) would work for this theme as well.

When Sophie Gets Angry…Really Really Angry by Molly Bang (Amazon.com link) Recommended by Jeanine Asche and Erica Hohmann

Vivid colors and bold descriptions capture just how it feels to be really, really angry, and how Sophie calms down.   This is a simple story about a little girl’s frustration and anger that kids can easily relate to, and one that conveys both the overwhelming feeling of rage and the fact that it eventually passes.

Grumpy Gertie by Sam Lloyd (Amazon.com link) Recommended by Shelley Jacobsen

I haven’t read this one yet, but it looks like a fun, simple way to teach kids that the face they project to the world can affect others.  Gertie is determined to tell the world just how grumpy she is, until a monkey teaches her how to turn her frown upside down.

The Pout Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen; illustrated by Daniel X. Hanna (Amazon.com link) Recommended by Kim Day

Adorable rhyming story about a pouty fish, whose ocean friends all try to cheer him up, until he turns upside down and becomes a kissy fish instead.

What are your favorite books about emotions?