Friday, February 12, 2016

Learning from Picture Books - SAM'S PET TEMPER

As a teacher, I'm always on the lookout for books that help children identify and manage their emotions. This picture book is nominated for this year’s Blue Spruce Award from the Ontario Library Association. 

The hero of this picture book, Sam, has to wait for everything on the playground one day, and this makes him mad. He got madder and madder until he was the maddest he had ever been in his whole life. And then, suddenly, an unusual thing appears. It runs around, shoving and tripping and pinching and stomping, until all the other children have run away. It was hanging upside down from the monkey bars, grinning at him. Sam had never seen anything like it before, but he knew what it was. It was a Temper. At first, having a pet Temper is fun. But before long, the Temper starts causing trouble for Sam. And eventually, Sam comes to the realization that his Temper is something he needs to learn to control.

Sam’s Pet Temper, written by Sangeeta Bhadra and illustrated by Marion Arbona, was published in 2014 by Kids Can Press.

My Thoughts as a Writer:

The writing has some great images and language: “The Temper hissed. It thrashed. It lashed out like a giant angry snake.” The author has really captured how it feels to be angry. Many children will be able to connect with and relate to this story.

The illustrations depict the Temper as a scary, scribbly monster, which seems appropriate from a child’s perspective. However, some reviewers have noted that the images of the Temper can be associated with an iconic racial image, “the golliwog.”

Even though this book is recommended for ages 5 – 7, it feels lengthy in comparison to the shorter style picture books I’ve seen lately.

 My Thoughts as a Teacher:

This book offers lots of possibilities for discussion about feelings and being angry. I was a bit cautious about the concept of feelings as a separate entity, which could suggest it’s okay for a child to blame their actions on “the temper” rather than taking responsibility. But I liked how it shows a way to think about anger and also included a couple of strategies for calming down, such as taking a deep breath. I don’t know if I liked the ending – passing along the Temper resolves the problem for Sam but not for the next child.  

Ages: 5 – 7

Grades: K - 2

Themes: anger, temper tantrums, emotions

Re-read the story and talk about the situations where Sam’s Temper seems to be in charge. What different way could he have handled the situation? Act out a new way to solve the problem.

Make a list of words to describe angry feelings. Choose three and put them in a poem or story.

Draw a picture of your own “Temper”. Think of one way you can keep it under control.

To find more great picture books to read or to use in your classroom, visit author Susanna Leonard Hill's website for her theme-based summary of Perfect Picture Books posted by book-loving bloggers on Perfect Picture Book Friday.


  1. What a cool book. I love the language too. I'm a teacher, I'll keep the book in mind. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Tabitha! You can never have too many books in the classroom about dealing with feelings, especially angry ones.

  2. It's always awesome when you find you like a book more than you think you would. Sounds like a great read about an interesting time in history.


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