Grumpy Bird – Or, Why It’s OK To Be Grumpy

“When Bird woke up, he was grumpy.”

Well, who can’t relate to that opening sentence? I think we’ve all woken up on the wrong side of the bed like Bird, grumpy and grouchy for no apparent reason, and frustrated to the brim with the world and everyone in it.

Bird is too grumpy to eat, he’s too grumpy to play, he’s too grumpy even to fly, which means he has no choice but to walk to get where he’s going. Turns out all the other animals in his neighborhood LOVE walking, and Bird quickly finds himself a pied piper of sorts, leading the rest of the animals in a jaunt around the woods. When Bird realizes that the other animals are following his lead, and that he can make them do silly things like stand on one leg or jump, he forgets all about his grumpy mood, and invites all of his new friends back to his nest for a snack.

Grumpy Bird makes for a delightful story time readaloud.The story is short and direct enough to grab and hold the attention of a wiggly audience, the text is simple with just enough repetition, and there are plenty of opportunities to really ham it up as Bird grows more and more exasperated with his too-cheerful neighbors. The illustrations are just awesome – bold black lines, simple shapes, expressive characters, primary colours and few fine details make for eye-catching images that really work well when shared with a crowd.

Grumpy Bird is just so appealing because we’ve all been Grumpy Bird – grumpy, grouchy, and annoyed by every chirpy, cheerful, annoyingly well-meaning person we come across.

On a more serious note, a colleague of mine once told me about a patron who strongly disliked this book because they didn’t want to convey to their child the message that it’s OK to be grumpy for no specific reason. Now, I don’t know about you, but I think we absolutely must show children that it’s OK to be grumpy, or sad, or anxious, or to experience and display a slew of other supposedly negative emotions. As anyone who has ever experienced anxiety will tell you, sometimes you just wake up feeling anxious, even if you can’t put your finger on the cause. Sometimes, despite our best intentions, we just feel awful, and that’s OK!   It’s OK to not always be the perfect, chipper person. It’s OK to have down days. It’s even OK to sometimes be the bad guy. We’re not always perfect, all of the time, and that’s totally natural and fair. Sometimes we’re the grumpy character, and sometimes we’re the supportive characters, who respect our friend and understand that they’re just having a rotten day, and love them all the same.

Originally from South Africa, Jeremy Tankard lived in several different cities before settling with his family in Vancouver. He was the artist for the BC Summer Reading Club in 2014, and is the author and/or illustrator of several picture books. I also met him once when he brought his family into the library (I gave him the key to the family washroom), and he was very nice and not grumpy at all.