There are certain aspects of life which we’re never taught about in school. It’s the things we tend to stumble our way through, across, over and under as we rack up the years of our lives. Some may say that’s how we grow and learn and gain wisdom but if only there had been a few more sign posts along the way when we were children, just to give us a hint and point us in the right direction, perhaps the path would have shown us a very different view. Today as the first part of a short series of blogs I’ll be writing, I’m reviewing the picture book called Emotionary: Say What You Feel which helps to explain the confusing, involuntary and intangible subject of emotions.
Emotions are an essential part of what it means to be human. If listened to, emotions can make us aware of what we’re thinking and feeling about any given situation through the corresponding physical and mental reactions which manifest. Being aware of our emotions can give us the power to take control of our own lives rather than being at the mercy of seemingly involuntary reactions. Emotions can often appear irrational and illogical so understanding and accepting them can elude many of us for most of our lives. After all it’s only the reaction to the emotion which can be captured in a lab and put on display. The emotion itself is something far less tangible with its intuitive and instinctive state.
However, understanding how we feel is still only the start of the journey. What about expressing those feelings to others? How are we supposed to translate these illusive feelings into words? Although I’ve always been very aware of my own feelings for people and situations, throughout my life at times I’ve struggled to voice the feelings most important to me in ways in which others can clearly understand. It’s something I’ve had to learn over the years through tears, misunderstandings and heartache and not something which has come naturally. Any words expressed out loud suddenly seemed inadequate for the emotions I was feeling, like hollow voids preparing to be impregnated with misinterpretation but I’ve come to realise that a good writer or speaker is someone who can embody any amount of emotion into each empty sound or mechanically printed word. Perhaps that’s how we capture the magic of writing. I’m never quite sure if my fascination with words and writing was born in part from this desire and need to coherently express my feelings or whether I recognised that my love of words and writing was the tool I could use to express my feelings. I’m pretty sure the former had a strong influence but the lines are blurred.
Book Review on Emotionary: Say What You Feel by authors Cristina Nunez and Rafael R. Valcarcel.
What’s it all about?
As the title suggests Emotionary is a dictionary of emotions and without a doubt it does what it says. A total of forty-two emotions to be exact are explained and illustrated in this beautiful book. The explanations include positive and negative emotions including fear, embarrassment, admiration and compassion for example with each emotion having been assigned a two page spread, mostly taken up with original illustrative interpretations which are complemented by the poignant text.
Emotionary helps children to recognise and understand their feelings by describing each emotion and providing the vocabulary to express those feelings to others. I wish I’d had a book like this as a child. Each emotion can be read randomly but when read from page to page the authors have also cleverly linked the emotions to show a cycle of feelings and how one can lead to another.
Which age group is it aimed at?
The text is by no means simple and the explanations are often profound as the book doesn’t hesitate to deal with some complex emotions. Whilst it captured my six year old’s attention and both boys loved making requests as to which emotions I read out first, my nine year old undoubtedly gained more from it due to his increased vocabulary. I ended up reading the whole book with him in one evening as he didn’t want to stop. As such my recommendation would be eight years upwards (and yes this can include adults) as this is not only when feelings become far more confusing for children as they begin to realise that everything is not as black and white as they may have once thought but they’re also at an age when they’re wanting to make sense of their emotions and are better equipped to comprehend the explanations. However that said, this book prompted many questions from both boys and both were keen to acknowledge which emotions they could relate to and when they had experienced them.
Every child’s shelf should hold this book so they can refer to it whenever they feel lost and need some reassurance that what they’re feeling is perfectly normal and understandable.
My 9 year olds verdict: This book has “very descriptive text and imaginative pictures. This book makes me feel pleasure.”
Author/s: Cristina Nunez and Rafael R. Valcarcel.
Illustrators: Twenty two illustrators have collaborated to illustrate this book, depicting one or two emotions each so listing all of them is sadly not practical (view image for all attributions) but my personal favourites are Love by Maricel Rodriguez Clark, Relief and Embarrassment by Nella Gatica, Compassion by Nancy Brajer, Insecurity by Virginia Pinon, Acceptance by Josefina Wolf, Envy by Cynthia Orensztajn, Satisfaction by Tofi and Pleasure by Luciana Feito.
Publisher: Palalbras Aladas (2016)
Our Rating: 5 out of 5
CLICK TO BUY Emotionary: Say what you feel
Next week in PART 2 I will be reviewing a book to teach the art of visualisation to children.
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