Barbara Throws a Wobbler by Nadia Shireen, Puffin Books
"Of course, Barbara had been in bad moods before.
She'd had huffs, grumps, upsets and strops.
But today was different.
Today felt like a hundred bad moods wrapped up in one."
What's it about?
Even though she denies it, Barbara is in a terrible mood. Her day begins with a sock problem, then she encounters issues with her lunch, followed by irritating cracks in the pavement. Dropping her ice cream is the final straw, and when this happens, Barbara throws a Wobbler! It emerges like a giant cloud of angry jelly and hovers above Barbara. The Wobbler copies everything Barbara says and does, which annoys her further, until Barbara realises she made the Wobbler, and she can make it disappear too.
What can we learn?
We have more control over our feelings than we realise. We make our bad moods and we can un-make them. Deep breathing can squish our Wobbler and cuddles can restore our sense of calm. And, everybody has bad days sometimes.
What makes this stand out? This tackles overwhelming emotions and tantrums in an entertaining and child-friendly way. It's an empowering story for young readers which is also extremely funny with adorable illustrations.
About those illustrations...
They are bright and cheerful, super-cute, and elevate the comedy. I love the facial expressions of all the characters - they're hilarious as well as endearing. I love Barbara's little upturned paw when she is contemplating her socks (and the sock on her tail). I love when she crushes her ice cream cone in disgust.
The playground scene with all the animals is brilliant - there's a bubble-blowing cow in a tutu and ballet shoes, and a very grumpy looking toad. A flock of chicks follow an authoritative-looking hen, a hamster contentedly swings, a squirrel flies a kite, while lots more excited and elated creatures "frolic."
I love the final scene in the park where the previous harmony appears to have been shattered and lots more Wobblers now lurk. My kids and I enjoy speculating on the changed circumstances and what might have led to them. We're especially curious about why the toad suddenly looks so happy - we suspect he has a very wicked sense of humour!
Why we love it...
This is such a convincing portrayal of the rollercoaster of emotions that the very young can experience. Barbara's frustrations echo those of its little readers - sometimes there's nothing like a sock dilemma or a funny-looking pea to ruin your day! Barbara is a fantastic character and so is the Wobbler - it's a really clever personification of tantrums and the bad mood blobs that can eclipse us all. I love how Barbara engages with the narrator and denies being grumpy at first. My kids find this book hilarious and I've mentioned the illustrations already, but we absolutely love them.
Why you need it...
Children will relate to Barbara and her story will help them to become more aware and more in control of emotions that can seem frightening. As the Wobbler tells Barbara that she's the one in charge of how she is feeling, readers will realise that they are too. Young people will also see that it's perfectly natural to be in a bad mood, and that it will pass. Barbara Throws a Wobbler would work well in a classroom or nursery setting, and is guaranteed to get a laugh wherever and whenever it's read.
About the author-illustrator:
Nadia Shireen enjoyed making homemade magazines and comics as a child. She studied law at university and then worked in magazine journalism; it was during this time that she started to draw again. After a lifetime of doodling in the sidelines, Nadia decided to pay some attention to drawing and in 2007 was accepted onto an MA course in Children's Book Illustration at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge. Her debut, Good Little Wolf, received a mention in the Bologna Ragazzi Opera Prima Award and won the UKLA Book Award. Nadia has been shortlisted for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize and the Waterstones Children's Book Prize. She lives in London.