When I started working at Greenwillow in 2007, I was delighted to recognize many books from my childhood in the full-to-bursting Greenwillow library. One of the ones I found most exciting of all was Aliki’s Feelings (I had also loved its twin, Manners, as a child, which is coincidentally celebrating its 20th anniversary this year). I have seen so many picture books about the complex topic of teaching children about feelings, but Feelings remains one of the few that manages to do it without being preachy, moralistic, or boring. On the contrary, the book seems to be less about don’ts and shouldn’ts, and more of a celebration of feelings as a whole: the good ones, the bad ones, and the ones in between.
Perhaps what I love about this book most is how I can find myself, at different points in my life, on every page. Aliki sets up the book as a series of loosely connected vignettes, in a comic book–style, and they express a kaleidoscope of feelings in the scant thirty-two pages. Page 30 is a special one for me.
At picture book age, I was an awkward, sometimes painfully shy kid, and aside from a couple friends, I wasn’t exactly a social butterfly. To me, the whole world felt a little bit like that picture, with me standing backstage, looking fearfully into the spotlight. It all changed in middle school when I tried out for the school musical—and ended up with an entire solo number. Singing, dancing…the whole nine yards. Though the first time I stepped onto it, the stage did indeed feel like that picture, after many, many years of walking out into that light—every show in high school, a theatre major and Cabaret in college—I finally was able to feel that nervousness and that fear, and go out there anyway.
Theatre wasn’t the only thing that pulled me out of my shell early on—in elementary school I met three girls who became my best friends, and who I am still close with today. We all lived in the same neighborhood, and the act of getting together always went exactly like page 23 of Feelings:
It’s hard to believe that we’ve now been friends for almost twenty years. We’ve all kept in touch despite everything—moving, college, weddings, even my one friend’s yearlong assignment in Iraq with the Navy. And though we’ve grown up and changed and done so many different things, being together, and that anticipation that we will see each other again, is a feeling that hasn’t changed at all. I think that no matter how many years pass, when they call me on the phone, I will always feel like dancing and sending them a valentine.
I’m so thankful to Aliki for creating this and so many other books that I know and love, and am truly honored to have met her in person during my time here at Greenwillow. Now that I’m expecting a child of my own in the spring, I’m so excited to see Feelings on my bookshelf, waiting to be opened, pored over, and opened again. There’s just so much to see. Because it’s one thing to be able to genuinely express a singular emotion in a book, to make it real and present for the reader, but to express so many? Well now, that—that’s something.