Grumpy Monkey: Managing Emotions with 9 Picture Books

Grumpy Monkey: Managing Emotions with Picture Books Cathy Collier

Grumpy. Grouchy. Cranky. Irritable. Crabby. You name it…we’ve all felt it. Most adults have ways of managing our emotions, but children haven’t figured it out yet.

Emotions often run wild and unchecked. As adults, guiding children through the maze of feelings is a crucial aspect of their development. One of the most challenging emotions to navigate is grumpiness.

It’s that prickly sensation that can turn a sunny day into a stormy one in the blink of an eye. However, it’s also an emotion that can be managed and understood, and what better way to do so than through the magic of storytelling?

Picture books have a unique ability to capture the essence of complex emotions in a way that is accessible and relatable to children. I found the book “Grumpy Monkey” by Suzanne Lang, and instantly loved it.

How can you not love a monkey named Jim Panzee whose best friend is a gorilla named Norman? BUT more importantly, this book (and many others) can serve as valuable resources in teaching children how to manage their grumpiness.

I have previously used the book Stellaluna to talk about character traits…and Grumpy Monkey is a great friend for this lesson.

I’ll highlight nine books and include a Grouchy Toolkit at the end you can share with your students.

Grumpy Book 1: The Grumpy Monkey

In “Grumpy Monkey,” we meet Jim Panzee, a lovable but perpetually grumpy monkey who just can’t seem to shake off his bad mood. “One day nothing was right. The sun was too bright, the sky was too blue and the bananas were too sweet.”

His friends point out the outward signs of grumpiness (standing hunched, brows bunched, and frowning), all while Jim loudly shouts, “I’m not grumpy.”

Grumpy Monkey: Managing Emotions with Picture Books Cathy Collier

Through a series of humorous encounters with his friends, Jim learns ways to feel better from taking a bath to singing a song. He also learns it’s okay to feel grumpy sometimes, but it’s also important to acknowledge those feelings and find healthy ways to deal with them.

Grumpy Book 2: The Grouchy Ladybug

Let’s all take a moment to think about Eric Carle and the amazing library of books he gave us. “The Very Grunchy Ladybug” takes us on a journey with a ladybug who is, you guessed it, feeling grumpy.

As she encounters various animals throughout the day, her grumpiness grows with threats of “Do you want to fight?” Ultimately she learns that threatening to fight isn’t the best way to manage her mood and also that you shouldn’t threaten a whale.

Grumpy Monkey: Managing Emotions with Picture Books Cathy Collier

The reader can only hope the next time she’s down she’ll manage her emotions better.

Grumpy Book 3: the very cranky bear

“The Very Cranky Bear” introduces us to a bear who just wants some peace and quiet but finds himself inundated with uninvited guests.

His friends are looking for a dry place to play on a rainy day. They interrupt bear’s nap.

Moose thinks it’s because Bear doesn’t have antlers. Zebra thinks it’s because Bear doesn’t have stripes. Lion thinks it’s because Bear doesn’t have a mane. Sheep didn’t know.

Grumpy Monkey: Managing Emotions with Picture Books Cathy Collier

Moose, Zebra, and Lion “make” some antlers, stripes, and a mane.

But this isn’t what Bear wants. Finally, sheep sheers his wool and offers Bear a soft and fluffy pillow. As the story unfolds, the bear realizes that sometimes all it takes to alleviate grumpiness is the company of friends and a little bit of understanding.

grumpy book 4: grumpy ninja

In Mary Nhin’s “Grumpy Ninja” we meet a ninja who is grumpy at home (with his sister), at school (with his classmates) and at the beach (when they first get there).

BUT, who can stay grumpy at the beach? Not Me! Give me a moment of sunshine and sand and water crashing the shore…and peace is eminent. That’s exactly what happens to Grumpy Ninja.

He starts playing on the beach and soon his mood is better.

Grumpy Monkey: Managing Emotions with Picture Books Cathy Collier

This book also gives ideas for getting over grumpiness: do things we love, go outside and play, relax in a bubble bath, have gratitude and appreciate things around you: sunshine, food, water, air, birds and bees, flowers and trees, and our families.

grumpy book 5: The unbudgeable curmudgeon

That’s a tricky title to say. “The Unbudgeable Curmudgeon” is a funny book about a curmudgeon who is grouchy and won’t budge from her bad mood.

The curmudgeon is carefully and ever-so-slightly moved from her bad mood. The book reads silly with all the complicated rhyming patterns like curmudgeon and bludgeon (we really shouldn’t bludgeon a curmudgeon) and shaking the funkiest funks (“It can be tricky to get the gunk off the funkiest funks.”)

Grumpy Monkey: Managing Emotions with Picture Books Cathy Collier

However, getting the curmudgeon to budge just a slight little bit can start the upward trend. “Once the curmudgeon starts to budge, you’ll be surprised how quickly the grouchiness can vanish.”

grumpy book 6: Always so grumpy

I love how Erin Guendelsberger uses a cute little hedgehog to show a grumpy mood. Hedgehog talks directly to the reader and insists there is nothing to change her grumpy mood.

You can tell a joke, it won’t matter. You can tickle me, it won’t matter. You can tell me to take an nap, it won’t matter…maybe.

Hedgehog builds a fence to keep out the smiles, but the fence falls.

Grumpy Monkey: Managing Emotions with Picture Books Cathy Collier

Finally, he tells the reader he can go. And just when you think the reader can go, he asks, “Are you going to go? Maybe I just need a hug.” So often students who are pushing us away, really want you close.

grumpy book 7: Grumpy Bird

Grumpy Book 7: The Grumpy Bird

Bird wakes up grumpy. He’s so grumpy he knows he shouldn’t drive to work. (Don’t you wish people would learn this lesson from bird?)

He decides to walk, but when his friends see him they want to know where’s he’s going and why he’s walking…so they join him. One at a time sheep, rabbit, racoon, beaver, and fox start following him.

When bird walked, they walked. When bird stopped, they stopped.

Grumpy Monkey: Managing Emotions with Picture Books Cathy Collier

When bird jumped, they jumped. When bird lifted one leg, they lifted one leg. All of a sudden, it was fun and they were laughing…and non one was grumpy.

grumpy book 8: grumpy cat

If you search “Grumpy Cat,” you’ll get lots of memes. You have to scroll down to find this picture book by Britta Teckentrup.

Grumpy Cat wants to be left alone, but a little kitten follows him. Grumpy Cat actually wants to feel better, but doesn’t know how.

He also discovers he isn’t really grumpy, he’s lonely. When the kitten is in trouble, everything changes for Grumpy Cat.

Grumpy Monkey: Managing Emotions with Picture Books Cathy Collier

grumpy book 9: The bad seed

“The Bad Seed” is part of Jory John’s series that includes “The Smart Cookie,” The Cool Bean,” and The Good Egg.”

The Bad Seed was so bad…everyone knew he was bad. He didn’t put away stuff, he jumped in line, and he never washed his hands or feet.

BUT he wasn’t all bad. Actually he wanted to be different, but “it’s hard to be good, when you’re used to being bad.”

Check out what he did to try an not be “The Bad Seed.”

Grumpy Monkey: Managing Emotions with Picture Books Cathy Collier

more support for grumpiness

These picture books serve as powerful tools for parents and educators to initiate conversations about emotions with children. By discussing the characters’ experiences and emotions, children can develop a deeper understanding of their own feelings and learn strategies for managing them.

Grumpy Monkey: Managing Emotions with Picture Books Cathy Collier

To further support children in managing their grumpiness, I have created a downloadable toolbox filled with practical activities and exercises inspired by the themes of these picture books.

The materials can be used to build an anchor chart for class discussion. Students could create a “IF I am Grumpy…” chart.

The toolbox can be used as printed or the tools can be personalized by your students.

I also discovered this super cute plush Grumpy Monkey (in the picture above). Wouldn’t this be a great addition to your classroom? Students could also use it in a calming corner for a support.

By incorporating these resources into children’s daily routines, we can empower them with the tools they need to navigate their emotions effectively.

Through storytelling, reflection, and play, we can help children embrace their grumpiness as a natural part of life while equipping them with strategies to handle it in healthy and constructive ways.

I have created a GRUMPY MONKEY COMPANION SET with many activities for using this book! I have 9 activities and 41 pages of ideas for students.

Let’s foster emotional resilience and well-being in the hearts and minds of our children, one story at a time.

Grumpy Monkey: Managing Emotions with Picture Books Cathy Collier
Cathy Collier

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