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An Emotional Menagerie

An Emotional Menagerie Feelings from A-Z

Published: 1 Oct 2020

Hardback, 60 pages

Recommended for age 3+ and 5+

By The School of Life

Published by The School of Life Press

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Filled with wise, therapeutic advice, brought to life through musical language and beautiful illustrations, An Emotional Menagerie is an imaginative and universally appealing way of increasing emotional literacy in children.

Tagged animals and language

Reviewed by Jo Bowers

An Emotional Menagerie:

‘Emotions are like animals:

No two are quite the same.

Some are gentle; others, fierce;

And some are hard to tame.’

The opening lines of this book capture the key message perfectly. This animal A-Z written in rhyming poetry form is a clever and appealing way of exploring all kinds of emotions that children may experience. Emotions and feelings can be hard to put into words so these illustrated poems in rich colours bring to life each emotion – anger, boredom, curiosity, dreaminess, embarrassment right through to zeal – and are filled with sage advice and understanding of how each feeling can make you feel.

An Emotional Menagerie is a book to read to and with children, to talk about, encourage children to ask questions and a great starting point for writing. There is much to explore in each poem and so could be used to dip into to focus on certain emotions, to help children to understand and explore different emotions in depth. Some ways could be to:

  • think of other emotions, attribute an animal and write a similar style of poem.
  • think of other animals that you could use for the emotions in the book and say why.
  • encourage children to question, for example, remorse is an elephant in the book which might make you think, ‘Does an elephant feel remorse?’ If yes, why? So great opportunities throughout for imaginative thinking and open-ended questions.

This is also a book to develop vocabulary as there could be a quite a few words, including some of the A-Z emotions, that might be new to children, e.g., zeal, tranquillity, engrossed, inquisitive, recalcitrant, belligerent to name just a few. Many of these words, underlined with dots, are synonyms of the emotion. Looking at these synonyms would be another interesting way to focus on words for older children: to identify what connects the underlined words; discuss them and thinking of more synonyms.

An Emotional Menagerie is both imaginative and informative. It’s a book I would recommend for 7+, to share and read together and dip into as there is so much to discuss, ask questions and explore in each individual poem to develop vocabulary and understanding of emotions.

Jo Bowers is a Principal Lecturer in Primary Education (Literacy) at Cardiff Metropolitan University. She joined the university ten years ago and prior to that was a classroom teacher and English leader in a primary school for nineteen years. Jo has been editor of, and currently sits on the Editorial Board of English 4-11 for the English Association and the UKLA Publications Committee. Jo runs an Open University Reading for Pleasure Teacher Group for teachers in Cardiff and sits on various shortlisting and selection panels for children's book awards, currently the English Association Picture Book Award and the Books Council of Wales Tir na n-Og Award. Jo is a Wales representative for UKLA, reviews books for Just Imagine and writes for English 4-11. She is passionate about children's literature and is happiest when she is reading and surrounded by books.