«SOMETIMES I GRUMBLESQUINCH by Rachel Vail; illus. by Hyewon Yum
40p. Scholastic. Jul. 2022. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781338751161
PreS-Gr 2–Self-described “really nice kid” Katie Honors always aims to please. Polite, well-behaved, and flexible, she earns compliments from her parents: “Katie is such a pleasure.” The reality beneath this veneer of perfection, of course, is a range of emotions, positive and negative. Her toddler brother Chuck has a knack for provoking her in small ways that her mother and father either overlook or minimize with platitudes: “You don’t mind, do you?” and “Chuck loves you!” Since her appearance as the protagonist of Vail’s Sometimes I’m Bombaloo, Katie has learned to suppress her feelings by “grumblesquinching,” her idiosyncratic term for bottling up anger and sadness inside. After her pent-up frustration finally explodes in the form of a tantrum, she fears that she has irreparably damaged her parents’ opinion of her. To her relief, her mother responds not with judgment but with warm understanding—she is accepted, anger and all. Vail creates a strikingly honest portrait of family relationships, sensitively probing the all-too-common adult habit of using praise to avoid uncomfortable but necessary emotional dialogue. Yum’s bright, expressive colored pencil drawings cleverly externalize the progression of Katie’s emotional response: as she loses her composure, strands of her hair begin to float up into sinister tentacles, and the image on her shirt subtly shifts from a rainbow to a storm cloud. VERDICT This tender, insightful exploration of childhood emotion and respectful parenting is an important purchase for all collections.