Review – The Grouchies/Sometimes I’m Scared

I’m always wary of books helping kids through their nightmares or foul moods. Tending to be on the preachy side, I honestly think the message just gets lost, and schmaltzy storylines and substandard illustrations usually go with them, hand-in-hand.

Not so here.

The Grouchies is a gorgeously-illustrated picture book, and was one of the reasons I first leaned towards reviewing it. Funky, retro images combine with warm humour and divine colours to form a really eye-pleasing book. And what of the text?

Today, the grouchies have got hold of our wee lad. They chase him down the hallway and tell him to be grumpy with everyone he meets. They hover over him, blocking out the sun and any chance of a fun thought. They grump him up during his sister’s tea party. They grump him in the playground and they even give him the grumps during construction of a puzzle.

You can imagine what happens to the puzzle.

At bedtime, our little one reflects on his rotten, grouchy day – and chats things over with his mum and dad, who tell him that everyone gets overrun by grumpy thoughts and that the key to squashing them is to think positive, happy thoughts, that shield the grouchies from attack. The next morning, he wakes refreshed and positive, surrounded by smiling suns – and no sign of those grouchy clouds.

this book gets to the point, yes, but it’s low on schmaltz. Rhyming text and notes to parents on negative feelings and the psychology behind them round out a pleasant storyline and super fab images.

In Sometimes I’m Scared, we meet a series of kids who admit to their fears – from Halloween costumes to spiders, storms, dogs barking, the dark, and of course . . . the terrifying circus clown. This is not a storybook per se, even though it’s presented in a picture book format. The voice of the book is aimed directly at kids, like a warm, fuzzy voice talking them through the varying possibilities of fear and then showing them how to circumnavigate those fears.

Told very simply and to the point, kids can read the book on their own, or be guided by an adult. The narrator offers varying ways to ‘rethink’ the reasons they are scared, and offers really insightful techniques on changing their mindset. Even breathing techniques are offered.

Sweet illustrations showcasing a wide range of kids in different situations round out a book that would be a priceless addition to the library of children suffering a modicum of anxiety at some time in their childhood (and isn’t that most kids?).

The Grouchies and Sometimes I’m Scared are published by Magination Press, in association with the American Psychological Association.

Published by

Tania McCartney

Tania McCartney is an author of children's books and adult non-fiction. Recent books include Riley and the Grumpy Wombat: A journey around Melbourne, and Australian Story: An Illustrated Timeline. She's also an editor, publisher and founder of Kids Book Review.