Zach Gets Frustrated

The Kite Fight

Written by William Mulcahy
Illustrated by Darren McKee
32 pages  •  Published 2012 (Free Spirit Publishing)
Book cover
Recommended Age Range: Kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Publisher's Summary: Zach and his family go to the beach, but Zach is having a lousy day. First, he dropped his toothbrush in the toilet. Then his best friend went to someone else’s birthday party instead of joining him. But most frustrating of all, he can’t get his kite to fly! Zach kicks sand, yells angry words, and asks his dad if they can just go home. Instead, his dad teaches him a simple, three-step approach to dealing with frustration so he can find a way to enjoy himself even when things aren’t going his way…Zach Gets Frustrated teaches children social skills they will easily understand and remember when dealing with frustration. The three-point strategy is presented as the three corners of a triangle and is illustrated using the corners of Zach’s kite.
Book cover

Dr. Annie's Takeaways

Recommended for: This book teaches the “Name It, Tame It, Reframe It” strategy of emotion regulation (i.e., name the feeling, use a relaxation skill like deep breathing, and then shift one’s thinking to be more helpful), which is useful for a child who has explosive reactions when something goes wrong or doesn’t go their way. It’s an effective trifecta of strategies, and it’s a moderately fun way to introduce this concept.
Would a child like it? Children who have had similar experiences to Zach might like it. The story is concrete and hopeful. An older child might find the story a bit boring, but it’s short enough and useful enough that I think they’d make it through.
Tone: Instructive, encouragin
Story Quality: It’s not the most engaging story–Zach goes to the beach and gets frustrated trying to fly his kite. But Zach’s dialogue and reactions strike me as fairly authentic and are likely relatable to a lot of kids reading this book (e.g., when his father suggests there might be things he can do to feel better, Zach says, “I can’t enjoy myself. This is worse than the day I threw up at school”). The author never comes close to making fun of or diminishing Zach’s feelings.
Illustrations: Polished, colorful cartoons that take up the entire pages of the book.
Representation: Zach and his family (his dad and two younger brothers) are all White males. There is brief mention of a friend of Zach’s named Sonya who is pictured as a girl with brown skin and brown hair. The story takes place at the beach and would be most relateable to a child who has experienced the frustration of trying to fly a kite.
Psychological Practices: The bulk of this story focuses on teaching Zach the “Name It, Tame It, Reframe It” technique for emotion regulation . Name It refers to identifying and articulating what he’s feeling (i.e., frustrated); Tame It reviews relaxation strategies, including squeezing and releasing muscles, taking deep breaths, concentrating on a pleasant sound, stretching, and visualization; and Reframe It refers to shifting one’s thoughts to notice the positive aspects of a situation. I wish the Reframe It section focused less on shifting one’s thoughts to be “positive” and more on shifting thoughts to be more flexible or more accuate. All said and done, though, this is an effective progression of interventions, and the book does a nice job showing how these strategies have an impact on how Zach is feeling.
Concerns: Nope

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