Literacy Milestone: Acting Out Books
North of Nowhere: Liz Kessler

Maya Was Grumpy: Courtney Pippin-Mathur

Book: Maya Was Grumpy
Author: Courtney Pippin-Mathur
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4-8 

Maya Was Grumpy is a delightful picture book written and illustrated by Courtney Pippin-Mathur. Young Maya wakes up one morning feeling grumpy, for no particular reason. Her Gramma coaxes Maya out of this bad mood by proposing an increasingly ridiculous series of activities. Though Maya resists, she is eventually won over. Like this: 

""Well then," said Gramma, "I guess that means no hunting for hippos after breakfast." 

"I never hunt for hippos," Maya grouched."

And on another page spread:

"Bathing baby elephants would probably be a bad idea today if you're grumpy," Gramma said.

Maya rolled her eyes."

And so on. Each page spread features a large-scale picture of Maya, her little twin brothers, and Gramma doing the proposed imaginary activity. A narrow panel to the right shows Maya's real-world response. Grumpy Maya is always depicted with enormously wild hair, and with her equally grumpy stuffed lion. The imaginary Mayas, however, wear fancy outfits and big smiles. Imaginary Maya's hair is big, but much more in control. It's like the hair is a proxy for Maya's mood - sometimes untameable and angry, and sometimes just bouncy. 

Although in a novel one tires of seeing ornate text attributions like "Maya grumbled", in this context, they work perfectly. Pippin-Mathur is able to introduce a bit of rich vocabulary, while keeping the book from being too repetitive. Active words like "squeezed" and "tickled" are shown in bold, making Maya Was Grumpy read-aloud-friendly.

But it's the bold illustrations (rendered in pencil, ink, watercolor, and "a little digital magic") that really stand out in Maya Was Grumpy. The backgrounds are use bold, bright colors. The imaginary scenes are filled with whimsy. And Maya's red-gold hair is practically a character in its own right. This is a book that kids are going to LOVE looking through. 

There are two other things that I like about this book. First of all, although it's about getting out of a bad mood, Maya Was Grumpy is not at all preachy. Maya's Gramma stays calm, and appeals to Maya's sense of humor, but she doesn't judge or even try to understand the reasons for the bad mood. This book just accepts that sometimes people have bad days, for no particular reason. I like that.

Second, I like that Maya's grandmother is her caregiver. The book doesn't make clear whether Gramma just watches the kids during the day, or whether they live with her, but this vagueness makes this a nice book for nontraditional families. Plus it's much more entertaining to see a grandmother happily sliding down the slide than a mother or father, I think. 

Maya Was Grumpy is a top-notch picture book, one that I highly recommend. I'm not sure whether my three-year-old will grasp this idea of generalized bad moods just yet, but I think that Maya Was Grumpy should be a great fit for 5 and 6 year olds. 

Publisher: Flashlight Press (@FlashlightPress)
Publication Date: March 11, 2013
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

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