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When Sophie Gets Angry by Molly Bang

When Sophie Gets Angry—Really, Really Angry...

Caldecott Honor Book 2000
Charlotte Zolotow Award 2000
Jane Addams Peace Honor Award 2000

First published in 1999

About the Story
I don't remember what the impetus was to Sophie, but I do remember I wrote many, many versions of it over several years. The editor at Blue Sky Press, Bonnie Verburg, liked the idea a lot, especially as she had a two-year-old at the time, but we revised the text again and again and again, up until the book was printed.

Once I began doing the pictures, I also began to look in the library and bookstores for similar books, and there just did not seem to be any books about a little girl who gets angry and deals with it in a helpful way. There was Mean Soup, by Betsy Everitt, which was delightful, about a girl whose Mom helps her blow her "mean" feelings into a delicious soup they make together. There was Bootsie Barker Bites, by Barbara Bottner, which was more about dealing with fear. There was Alexander's Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day, by Judith Viorst, also a great story about how some days are indeed pretty horrible. And of course Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak is about a boy who is being sent to his room for being "wild" and deals with his anger by playing with imaginary monsters. But there were no books specifically about a girl who gets angry and knows how to calm herself down. I expect this is why the book has been so popular: we daughters and parents and siblings need it!

I've also heard from many teachers and children's therapists who use the book as a way to begin talking about anger and how we can deal with it without harming ourselves or others.

When I began the book, I made the child in the story look like my daughter, who is now an adult, but when I showed her the beginning pictures, she said, "Mom, as I remember, I wasn't the only one in our family who got angry." Hmmm. So instead I made Sophie look like I looked as a child, and I had her do what I did when I got mad.

I made the pictures of gouache, which is a thick, mud-like paint and which feels nice and gucky when painted thickly. It is very satisfying to paint exuberant feelings with gouache. I began the book with bright pinks and purples and chartreuse, turning to reds and oranges when Sophie gets angry, then turning to browns, then blues and greens as she calms down, and then using the full palette when she returns home, "whole" again. It was interesting to notice how angry I felt while I was making the angry pictures, and how much calmer I felt when I was painting with the blues and greens.

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copyright 2016 by Molly Bang