The Boy with Big, Big Feelings – Britney Winn Lee and Jacob Souza

The Boy with Big, Big Feelings by Britney Winn Lee, Jacob Souva
Also by this author: The Kid with Big, Big Ideas, The Girl with Big, Big Questions, The Big, Big Feelings Activity Book
Series: The Big, Big Series #1
Published by Beaming Books on August 20, 2019
Genres: Children's
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An instant classic in the world of Social-Emotional Learning, this bestselling picture book tells the story of one little boy with some big, big emotions -- and how he learns to see them for the gifts they are.

The Boy with Big, Big Feelings is relatable for any child -- especially for a child experiencing anxiety, extreme emotions, a child identified as a Highly Sensitive Person, or a child on the autism spectrum. Beautifully illustrated and written in rhyming verse, children and adults explore the whole spectrum of feelings and readers navigate the emotional challenges they face throughout the day.

The main character has feelings so big that they glow from his cheeks, spill out of his eyes, and jump up and down on his chest. When he hears a joke, he bursts with joy. When a loud truck drives by, he cries. When his loved ones are having a hard day, he feels their emotions as if they were his own.

The boy tries to cope by stuffing down his feelings, but with a little help and artistic inspiration, the boy realizes his feelings are something to be celebrated.

A lot of children’s books that deal with children’s emotions tend to focus on how emotions should be expressed, managed, controlled, or otherwise maintained. And while those aren’t inherently bad—though some can be—the overall impression that kids can get from adults is that it’s not okay to express emotion. This is particularly true for young boys. Just the other day, I witnessed a mom at the playground telling her young son that “only babies cry” and “nobody likes you when you cry.” Yikes.

The truth of the matter is that everyone has big feelings and while there are inappropriate or more negative ways of expressing them, children need to be taught how to express and use their big feelings. That message is at the core of The Boy with Big, Big Feelings. With a delightful rhyming scheme from Britney Winn Lee and engaging illustrations from Jacob Souva, this book introduces readers to a young boy whose feelings sometimes overwhelm him.

Lee takes readers through the highs and lows of having big feelings—from the extreme joy of playing with others, to sadness, to empathy at another’s pain. Finally, the boy finds a kindred spirit with similarly big feelings and the two begin to see that everyone has big feelings at some time or another. The book ends “The boy and his friends slowly felt less alone with the feelings that lived deep inside them. Emotions might feel big and scary sometimes, but that is no reason to hide them!”

As someone with big emotions, who has children with big emotions, and who lives in a rather emotionally reserved culture, The Boy with Big, Big Feelings is validating and freeing. Adults have such a desire to control children that many never learn to express and engage with their feelings freely. This gets exacerbated by certain strains of Christianity that focus on patriarchal authority and preach the impassivity or emotionlessness or God. But just read Scripture and see God’s big, big feelings at work! We are made in the image of the Creator and our heart is meant to reflect the Divine.

I remember when my son was very young, he was attempting to create something with blocks. He had a vision in his two-year-old mind that the dexterity of a two-year-old’s hands and—let’s face it—basic principles of physics were rendering impossible. The vision could not be realized. And he raged. And raged. And raged. Because his world was not as he wanted it to be. Many adults would look on his big feelings as bad behavior. But how many times have I raged and raged and raged about the world not being what I want it to be? How often is my vision for the world not in alignment with reality and no matter how much I try I cannot fix it? That’s a holy rage—but it must be taught and cultivated. The world seeks to quash big, big feelings. Instead, we need to embrace them. That’s what The Boy with Big, Big Feelings teaches us.

My son is six now. When we got this book, he asked to read it. A few pages in he stops and says “This boy is just like me.” And I wept.