Amaya’s Anger

A Mindful Understanding of Strong Emotions

Written by Gabi Garcia
Illustrated by Marta Pineda
37 pages  •  Published 2021 (Skinned Knee Publishing)
Book cover
Recommended Age Range: 1st through 4th grade.
Publisher's Summary: Amaya scowled and scrunched at school. She glared and grumbled at home. Everywhere she went these days Amaya seemed to frown and furrow. Everyone always tells Amaya that she’s angry, but is that it? After spending time baking with her Tia, Amaya discovers that there are other emotions bubbling beneath her anger. Along the way, she learns the power of identifying and expressing her emotions and that deep breaths really do help.
Book cover

Dr. Annie's Takeaways

Recommended for: This book is excellent to read with a child who is already able to label their feelings at least some of the time, and who will enjoy thinking more deeply about their emotions. It teaches children that anger is often the “crust” on top of a pie filled with other feelings that need to be noticed and expressed so that they don’t bubble up and explode. After talking with her Tia, Amaya realizes that she’s been getting angry a lot lately because she’s been feeling jealous of the attention her baby sister has been getting, so it’s particularly relevant for kids in a similar situation, but it’s certainly not limited to this scenario. The book also provides a convincing rationale for taking deep breaths and provides a nice visual for practicing this skill. It’s available in English and Spanish.
Would a child like it? It’s perhaps a bit didactic, but it has the feel of a cool favorite aunt imparting her wisdom. And it validates children’s frustrations with adults telling them to take a deep breath when they’re upset, which many children will relate to and appreciate.
Tone: Authentic, reassuring
Story Quality: This story is really heartfelt and useful. It will be immediately relatable to many children, and it introduces some sophisticated concepts in a child-friendly way. I really love the way that Gabi Garcia speaks to children. She’s a therapist, and I imagine she’s a very good one.
Illustrations: Stylish cartoons in vibrant colors.
Representation: Amaya is a Latina girl with a Tia who bakes empanadas and pies with her. She has a Mami and a baby sister, Lola. This book is also available in Spanish.
Psychological Practices: This story teaches children a sophisticated, but important concept: that anger is often the feeling on the surface, but there are usually other feelings underneath (e.g., sadness, jealousy, fear, guilt). Amaya’s Tia uses a metaphor of a pie with the crust being anger, and the other feelings being the pie filling. She shares that if you don’t “vent” the pie, the feelings will build up and explode, and she encourages Amaya to “vent” her feelings through talking, drawing, moving her body, or crying. She also gives Amaya an explanation for why adults are always telling her to take a deep breath (“…it sends a message to your brain to calm down. But when others remind us too much, or at the wrong time, I know it can feel annoying”). She teaches Amaya a deep breathing exercise of imagining that she’s smelling a bowl of soup and then blowing on it to cool it off. Tia encourages Amaya to pay more attention to her feelings, including where she notices them in her body. Amaya notices that she’s feeling frustrated at school when she doesn’t understand something (and she then asks for help), and she is able to tell her mom how she feels when her mom pays more attention to her baby sister than to her (her mom gives her a hug and makes a plan to have special time with Amaya). In addition to providing some great information about anger and anger management, this book has an amazing example of how caring adults can help a child to regulate their feelings. After Amaya’s anger outburst, her Tia follows Amaya up to her room and says to her, “Whatever you’re feeling is okay. I’m here for you if you need me.” She’s validating and helpful, and I love it.
Concerns: None