Red Red Red, by Polly Dunbar, (March 2020, Kane Miller), @14.99, ISBN: 9781684640263
Originally published in the UK in 2019, Red Red Red is a rhyming story about a toddler on the verge of a meltdown when a mission to reach a highly-placed biscuit (we call ’em cookies on this side of the pond) and falls down, getting hurt. If you know toddlers like I know toddlers, you know that the meltdown is mighty. In this case, the little one is hurt and still has no biscuit to show for the pain. This is cause for an apocalyptic-level meltdown, and we see it unfolding, spread by spread. Mom asks if the little one’s okay, leading to blame (“Yes! I had a bump. / It made my cry. / The biscuit jar / war up too high!”); dismay (“My socks are down. / My pants are twisted. / I want… / I want… / I WANT / A BISCUIT!”); and ultimately, the tantrum. The toddler rails against the cursed cookie jar, roars, and thumps their head on the floor. This kid is SEEING RED. Luckily, Mom is there to save the day, and provides some calming wisdom; she acknowledges her child to stop engaging in self-destructive behavior and encourages them to count to 10. The panels illustrate each number with an angry red scribble as the little one counts their way to solace; the fonts become less black and bold, more gray, almost ethereal, and the angry red scribbles lessen, becoming little sprinkles as the little one learns to self-comfort and goes from rage to relaxed. Mom and little one do some deep breathing, the little one gets that cookie, and all is well once again.
Red Red Red wonderfully depicts a meltdown from beginning to end, with a positive workaround that parents and caregivers can put into action. The toddler depicted is genderless, making them accessible to any reader, and the illustrations are boldly outlined with light, pastel colors, really letting that angry red blast off the page and make a statement. Even the endpapers get into the story, with angry red scribbles greeting readers as they open the book; as the book concludes, tantrum over, the back endpapers show childlike drawings of red hearts strung across the pages.
A very helpful book to have on hand (we adults need to remember this stuff, too) for parents, educators, and caregivers. We get frustrated, too, and seeing this mom keep her cool as she comforts and guides her little one through a tantrum is a helpful reminder that two people getting mad leads nowhere. Display this one with book like Zachariah Ohora’s No Fits, Nilson!; two of my favorites are still Mo Willems’ Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! andHow Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night? by Jane Yolen.