Thursday, 9 February 2023
This week’s Poetry Friday host is Carol Varsalona at Beyond Literacy Link.

My friend Aliza Werner sent me the most wonderful book: What Feelings Do When No One’s Looking by Tina Oziewicz, illustrated by Aleksandra Zajac. This sweet book about emotions was translated from Polish to English by Jennifer Croft.

Find it at Bookshop.Org

Aliza and I had been talking about my forthcoming poetry collection for kids, Welcome to Monsterville, in which monsters represent such human emotions as empathy, fear, self-love, and anger.

“After you told me all about your new monster book, I immediately thought of this book,” Aliza said.

I can see why! Although it is not written in poetry, Oziewicz and Zajac use simple lines of text and adorable monster-like creatures to explore a child’s emotional landscape.

“Kindness quiets the storm,” reads one page.

“Friendship sits down beside you when you trip and fall,” says another.

“Happiness zips through the air in a soap bubble.”

100% charming!

What Feelings Do When No One’s Looking is a perfect read alike for Welcome to Monsterville.

In both books, monster-like creatures embody human feelings.

They are perfect social emotional conversation starters for kids and their adults.

And reading these books engages children in creative thinking about their feelings. We might ask young readers, “When you’re feeling sad, what does your sadness do when no one is looking? Can you draw a picture of it?”

I’m planning to use the first line of the poem “When I Cry” from Welcome to Monsterville as a writing prompt.

Try it… fill an emotion into this line and see where your imagination takes you:

There is a monster in me called ____________ (choose an emotion).

When I Cry
from Welcome to Monsterville, by Laura Shovan
illustrated by Michael Rothenberg

There is a monster in me called Sadness.
Its arms and legs ache.
It is weary, as if it spent all night
walking across steep mountains.

There is a monster in me whose hair
stretches from its head in tangled rivers,
flowing fast—like the thoughts
that keep me awake.

When I cry, Monster weeps.
Tears crawl on fuzzy legs down its cheeks.
They tickle! Monster laughs
until its teeth turn pink.

Can I laugh too, even though
I am sad? Yes, Monster says.
You’re a weary, silly, laughing,
weeping, wonderful creature.

Pre-ordering? I’m giving away stickers with Michael Rothenberg’s original art! Leave a comment to claim your prize or pre-order here.

Enjoy this little gallery of spreads from What Feelings Do When No One’s Looking. I found these images on book order pages at various retailers.

Trust builds bridges.
Joy bounces on a trampoline.
Patience keeps a lovely garden.

34 responses to “Feeling Monstrous”

  1. Sally Murphy says:

    Laura – thank you for sharing both When I Cry and its monster twin – they go so well together – a perfect complement. I am off to see if I can them here in Australia.

  2. Laura, the companion book to your wonder-filled monsters’ book is delightful. It is wonderful to have books that can bring sunshine into the lives of children while giving them thoughts to ponder. Now, I am off to finish Day 9 of your power-packed 11th Annual February Poetry Project.

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Hi, Carol! Sunshine, thoughts to ponder — yes. Both are parts of the human experience, for children as much as for adults.

  3. Linda Baie says:

    Hi Laura, I saw you sharing this book earlier on FB & my library has it, so put it on hold! And I have pre-ordered your book, would love a sticker! I know your book and this new one you’ve shared will be a treasure to many children. Though older, one granddaughter had a big disappointment this week. I’m going to share your sadness poem with her, hoping it will give her a hug to know others understand those kinds of feelings, too. Thank you!

    • Laura Shovan says:

      You’ve got it, Linda! I’ll mail a sticker out to you. I hope the poem brings a little bit of comfort to your granddaughter.

  4. Oh how delightful both of these books are and they go so well together, I’m looking forward to reading them! I just pre-ordered your book and would love a sticker— thanks for sharing all Laura!

  5. Linda Mitchell says:

    Wheeeeeee! Another great book from you, Laura! I just requested that my public library purchase your book. I cannot emphasize enough just how much young people need support in regulating their emotions right now. We have a way to go in that area–even though so many, many adults in charge would like to simply imagine that everything is OK and “back to normal.” I love the whole idea of Welcome to Monsterville and I cannot WAIT to get my hands on it. ‘What Emotions Do…’ looks wonderful as well. What good company Monsterville keeps. Thanks for the rec!

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Hi, Linda. Thank you so much for requesting my book for your library. I’ve been hearing this from teachers all over the country — how kids need support and conversation about emotional regulation.

  6. Congrats on your new book, Laura – I can imagine many young readers finding validation and inspiration in its pages! (And us grown-ups, too, of course.) “What Feelings Do When No One’s Looking” had me at the title – and the illustrations are amazing. What a great pairing!

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Hi, Robyn! Isn’t “What Feelings Do When No One’s Looking” adorable? There’s even one little creature who’s busy knitting.

  7. jama says:

    Love the term “read alikes.” What a great pairing. Thanks for sharing bits of both books.

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Thanks, Jama. This sweet little book is so comforting and cozy, but does shy away from feelings like anger and envy.

  8. Congratulations on your new book. And thanks for sharing “What Feelings Do When No one’s looking.” Clearly the books are different reads, yours in verse, though both using monster art that parents and kids will both like.

  9. Laura, What great books these two offerings are! Children might not associate their feelings with actions, symbols, or activities. Both books might help them to name what they feel. I see how useful these books could be in a home, school, or hospital setting. I would like to try writing one for myself about anxiety. Thank you for sharing.

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Hi, Carol. Exactly — books can help kids name, visualize, and even step back from their feelings. I’d love to hear how your poem turns out!

  10. Karen Eastlund says:

    Very helpful post, Laura… and congratulations on your book! I love your prompt and will definitely keep these titles in mind.

  11. Mary Lee says:

    What a perfect pair! I will definitely share these with my after-school kiddos!

  12. Gosh, thank you for showcasing this book, Laura. It’s a perfect companion also for Pomelo Book’s THINGS WE FEEL A-Z poetry anthology for pre-K/gr 2. I’m going to forward your post on to my favorite kinder teachers. 🙂

    And thank you also for a wonderful writing prompt. I love to imagine happy monsters with pink teeth!

  13. Molly Hogan says:

    Oh, what a delightful pairing! These look like wonderful conversation starters for my second graders. I love the suggested line prompt you shared as well, and will be playing with that in my notebook and sharing it with students.

  14. Kay McGriff says:

    I’ve been looking forward to Welcome to Monsterville, and now I have another book to enjoy with it. thanks for sharing these.

  15. Both books sound wonderful! Can’t wait to read yours, Laura!

  16. My daughter is a youth services librarian and I’ll be sure to ask if her library has ordered WELCOME TO MONSTERVILLE. I pre-ordered a copy for myself, too and it’s scheduleD to ship on my birthday. 😀

    WHAT FEELINGS DO WHEN NO ONE’S LOOKING sounds wonderful too!

  17. Linda says:

    Laura- the poem you shared here convinced me to order your new book. It sounds wonderful!

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Laura Shovan

Laura Shovan is the author of the award-winning middle grade novel, The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary. Her second book, Takedown, is a Junior Library Guild and PJ Our Way selection. Look for A Place at the Table, co-written with Saadia Faruqi, in 2020. Laura is a poet-in-the-schools Maryland.

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