Posted in Book Reviews, Picture Books

Book Review: Dealing with tantrums through stories

Reposted from

Socks. A missing puzzle piece. The wrong color t-shirt. Peas touching carrots. Rain. If you’re parenting a toddler or preschooler, you know that the smallest thing can trigger a HUGE temper tantrum. After a series of truly ground-shaking tantrums from our three-year-old, we turned to the books for advice: picture books, of course.

Reading stories with younger children is a great way to help them process their own emotions more effectively. A quick Google search for “tantrum picture books” yielded an impressive list of titles, and with my son’s help, I’ve narrowed it down to two great stories about children dealing with intense emotions: Sometimes I’m Bombaloo (Vail/Heo) and No Fits, Nilson(OHora).   

In Bombaloo, a little girl named Katie introduces herself and her life at home with her parents and baby brother. She tells us that sometimes she can manage her emotions when things go wrong – but other times, her emotions take over and she’s not Katie anymore: she’s Bombaloo. The illustrations and text show how Katie becomes volatile and aggressive during a tantrum; there’s shouting, finger-pointing, and a trip to her room. In the midst of the chaos, though, a silly moment makes her laugh, and Katie becomes herself again. She reminds us that tantrums are scary for her, too, and the story ends with a reassuring cuddle from her mom, an apology and rebuilding (literally) her castle.

No Fits, Nilson makes great use of that common childhood companion, a favorite stuffed animal (in this case, a gorilla named Nilson). The main character, Amelia, takes Nilson all around town as they accompany her mother on a day out. Every time “Nilson” becomes agitated or frustrated, Amelia reminds him to stay calm by saying, “No fits, Nilson.” As the book progresses, Nilson also has to remind Amelia to stay calm, and by the end of the story, readers realize that Amelia is really talking about her own feelings when she discusses her gorilla.

Both of these books were a hit with our preschooler. Now we actually use the phrase, “No fits, Nilson!” to remind him to stay calm, and we can use the word “bombaloo” to humorously discuss his emotions if he’s heading towards a tantrum. The books have given us a framework to discuss emotions and tantrums in a way that makes sense to our little one, and we’ve seen a noticeable change in behavior as a result.

If you’ve found a picture book that helps you solve problems with your kiddos, I’d love to hear about it! Comment below…



Texan, teacher, writer, reader: that’s me in a nutshell. Originally from Texas, I now live in London with my husband (he’s a Brit) and our two boys. I spend my time devouring books (especially young adult/middle grade fiction), baking cookies and generally going in ten directions at once. More than a decade ago, I moved to London for a teaching job, met my husband, stayed, and started a family. The last few years have been a whirlwind: in 2013, we moved to Austin, TX and I decided to stay at home with our son; in 2014, we bought and renovated a house in South Austin; in 2015, we welcomed our second son at a local birth center...and in 2016, we packed up and moved back to London! 2017 is set to see more changes as our eldest little starts school and I head back to the classroom. Read on for renovation info, book reviews, creative writing posts, and the general flotsam and jetsam of my life.

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