Friday, February 12, 2016

Sophie's Feelings

On June 3rd of 2014, I offered the picture book When Sophie Gets Angry – Really, Really Angry by Molly Bang as a part of my Picture Book a Day for a Year project. Check out that post [here]. I also listed this wonderful book a couple of days ago as a part of the books I’ve recommended for Lent and Easter [here].

I’m pleased to tell you that there is a sequel. This new book is another extraordinary tool for helping children identify and understand their feelings, crucial for social-emotional health. It also offers a relatable context to connect those feeling with the Holy. In addition, we have another opportunity to visit the delightful world of Sophie and see how she handles having strong feelings this time. Emotionally and behaviorally, she’s come far since her first book!

Anytime I can find the Holy in such a charming and valuable book, I jump at the chance. I connected When Sophie Gets Angry… with the concept of comforting, contemplative prayer in nature because that’s what Sophie does. In fact, I’ve designed a lesson for elementary aged children that uses this first Sophie book and Psalm 51: 10-12 (Create in me a clean heart oh God…). If you’re interested in this lesson, contact me via the blog and I’ll tell you more.
The sequel, When Sophie’s Feelings Are Really, Really Hurt finds Sophie at school doing an art lesson. She’s been asked to paint a tree. She immediately thinks of her favorite tree (one that gave her comfort in the previous book), but when she begins to paint it, the natural colors don’t seem to capture her feelings about the tree. Instead, she chooses to use vibrant colors: blue for the trunk & orange for the sky so that the blue pops. 
After painting the leaves green, she adds a touch of yellow around the trunk & each leaf so that it appears to be shining. Her painting, which makes her so happy, is quickly criticized by a classmate, Andrew, who tells her, “We were supposed to paint a REAL tree, Sophie. You did it all wrong.” No wonder Sophie’s feelings are really, really hurt!
Sophie’s reaction is described in detail, both physically (her face gets hot) and emotionally (she regrets her decision to paint with such colors). Thankfully, the teacher, Ms. Multry, intervenes. She encourages Sophie and Andrew to tell about their trees. In so doing, Sophie sorts her feelings and justifies her creative decisions and Andrew explains his point of view.
At the end of her explanation, Sophie declares that the tree makes her feel “good and strong.” Ms. Multry says that when she looks at Sophie’s picture she feels good and strong too. When Andrew explains his painting, Sophie points out the prominent roots in Andrew’s painting, “His tree is holding on to the hill like it will never let go – ever.”
Ms. Multry praises both children for carefully considering their trees and expressing their feelings in their art. The book ends with Sophie returning to her tree no longer feeling angry, sad or hurt. In fact, she “loves just being Sophie.”  

There is so much here that can connect to being a precious child of God who creatively celebrates the beauty of God’s creation (how it can make us “feel good and strong”) and handles hurt feelings in a way that is thoughtful, respectful, and affirming of others. Sophie could be a role model for some adults I know!
Exploring what happens when we “get our feelings hurt” is especially positive in any educational or religious context because it normalizes the situations and feelings and offers helpful ways to deal with such feelings. If God can be viewed as a comfort and help, then all the better. Such conversations are important for all children (and adults).
Another possibility with both of these books is in exploring trees as a common spiritual metaphor. You’d be surprised how early children understand this. Andrew’s tree is a beautiful representation of human faith in God or God’s relationship with humans. The tree “holds on like it will never let go.”

Have fun introducing Sophie to your children and dare I say, some adults you know.
Picture Book: When Sophie’s Feelings                                                                 Are Really, Really Hurt
Author & Illustrator:  Molly Bang
Original Publisher & Date: The Blue Sky Press, 2015
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet

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