An Emotional Menagerie: Feelings from A to Z

Authored by The School of Life
Illustrated by Rachael Saunders
Published by The School of Life

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‘Emotions are like animals:

No two are quite the same.

Some are gentle; others, fierce;

And some are hard to tame.’

The opening lines of this book capture the key message perfectly. This animal A-Z written in rhyming poetry form is a clever and appealing way of exploring all kinds of emotions that children may experience. Emotions and feelings can be hard to put into words so these illustrated poems in rich colours bring to life each emotion – anger, boredom, curiosity, dreaminess, embarrassment right through to zeal – and are filled with sage advice and understanding of how each feeling can make you feel.

An Emotional Menagerie is a book to read to and with children, to talk about, encourage children to ask questions and a great starting point for writing. There is much to explore in each poem and so could be used to dip into to focus on certain emotions, to help children to understand and explore different emotions in depth. Some ways could be to:

  • think of other emotions, attribute an animal and write a similar style of poem.
  • think of other animals that you could use for the emotions in the book and say why.
  • encourage children to question, for example, remorse is an elephant in the book which might make you think, ‘Does an elephant feel remorse?’ If yes, why? So great opportunities throughout for imaginative thinking and open-ended questions.

This is also a book to develop vocabulary as there could be a quite a few words, including some of the A-Z emotions, that might be new to children, e.g., zeal, tranquillity, engrossed, inquisitive, recalcitrant, belligerent to name just a few. Many of these words, underlined with dots, are synonyms of the emotion. Looking at these synonyms would be another interesting way to focus on words for older children: to identify what connects the underlined words; discuss them and thinking of more synonyms.

An Emotional Menagerie is both imaginative and informative. It’s a book I would recommend for 7+, to share and read together and dip into as there is so much to discuss, ask questions and explore in each individual poem to develop vocabulary and understanding of emotions.

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