Molly Bang's When Sophie Gets Angry - Really, Really Angry...
Children's book review by Steve Barancik
A book about anger self-management
Sophie has a gripe. Not a legitimate gripe, mind you, but a gripe nonetheless.
It's her sister's turn to play with Gorilla. In the ensuing tussle - which Sophie loses - she proceeds to fall over another toy.
Now she's angry - really, really angry - and that's what the story's about.
Sophie's anger is graphic, and Molly Bang won a 2000 Caldecott Honor (and a Jane Addams books about peace honor) for her representation of that anger. Bang sets aside subtlety in favor red-hot, can't-see-straight rage. Most fans of the book site these depictions of anger as the book's great strength. It helps children recognize the feeling of anger in themselves.
And then do something about it.
But some grown-ups take issue with what Sophie does about it, and the book has nearly as many detractors as fans. (And the purpose of this review is to help you decide which you would be!)
Sophie leaves the house to take care of her anger. "She runs and runs and runs until she can't run anymore." That takes her through forest and to an oceanside. She climbs a tree with what remains of her energy. She soothes herself among its branches as she watches the water.
Literal-minded parents have gotten a little angry about When Sophie Gets Angry, which they take as endorsing a policy of running away from home for an angry toddler. Some of them note that they don't live on a secluded beach estate.
Other parents see in the book an opportunity to teach a child to recognize her own anger, to take care of it on her own, to appreciate the ability of time to heal all wounds - including anger. They perhaps feel confident in their ability to contextualize the book and in their children's ability to avoid taking too much of it literally.
No matter which side you're on, both sides can agree though that this isn't the "use your words" school of anger management. After all...
...you're not always going to be there to talk your child through her (or his) anger. When Sophie Gets Angry is very much a book about taking care of oneself.
More Caldecott reviews.
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