Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Spring Reading 2018 Simon and the Big, Bad, Angry Beasts


In a beginning reminiscent of Where the Wild Things Are, "The first time Simon got mad, it was after he had caused a lot of mischief." Simon is red-faced with anger, leaning back on his heels and lines coming from his open mouth to show readers how loudly he is protesting. His father is tugging on Simon's hand and pointing to his room with his mouth firmly set. But a strange thing happens when Simon is left in his room. When he pounds on the door, a big ram is suddenly there pounding along with him. And this same phenomenon happens each time he gets angry over being told, "No," or losing a game. The ram becomes an alligator, then the gator becomes a lion, the lion a rhino, and the rhino a dragon. Simon thinks it is marvelous and magical to have these angry beasts that keep people from telling him what to do or making him eat his soup. Until he suddenly notices how lonely it is. His solution for what to do about his anger incorporates a great lesson on mindfulness and embracing peace and calm.

The situations Simon is upset with are typical childhood scenes that often provoke anger or tantrums. Young readers will sympathize with Simon's desire to throw the Parcheesi board into the air when he loses. But the image of Simon with his dragon on one end of a seesaw and the other end hanging in the air empty will drive home the point that it is no fun to be alone with one's anger. All the illustrations are wonderfully done with details such as Simon's eyebrows at a maniacal slant as he rides the alligator around, or the fangs of the lion as it crouches behind him.

The moral of anger driving everyone away and leaving one lonely is shown more than explicitly spelled out, and the resolution takes some effort on Simon's part. Back matter includes a "Guide for Parents and Teachers" with special sections on using the book at home or with groups, follow-up activities, and a discussion of mindfulness as an antidote for media images and the general decline in civility. Best used with elementary school ages, particularly primary grades.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

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