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Hallee Adelman: Small Books about Big Feelings (SEL)

[Note: GIVEAWAY! Hallee is kindly offering three sets of three of her books to our lucky readers. Entry details are at the end of this post.]

No one really loves having an on-the-floor temper tantrum. But if we are being honest, we have all had some not-so-great responses to our great big feelings. We cannot control the instant emotions that wash over us when a friend acts mean, or a parent yells, or the power goes out in a thunderstorm. But we can develop skills to manage feelings, harness their power and build more positive responses.

Feelings connect us. We might not share the same experiences, but we can connect through emotions. That is why I write small books about big feelings. But on a micro-level, I want readers to feel cared about, understood, and empowered -- not just in difficult moments, but also for a lifetime.

Since many psychologists call emotions “energy,” I like to ask: How can kids learn to use this energy, along with their experiences, to become resilient, develop inner strength and build lasting relationships?

In all of the books I write, I am honest with kids and families: dealing with big feelings can be difficult. When we’re trying our best, things can still go awry. In Way Past Worried, Brock learns he must go to Juan’s birthday party alone, without his usual sidekick. With his “heart thumping” and his “mind racing,” Brock makes his way out the door, only to get knocked down by Pickles, the dog, and his muddy paws. When Keya tries running to release her anger in Way Past Mad, she trips on the crooked sidewalk and falls. As I can attest from my own career as an author, educator, and mom, sometimes our efforts, despite all good intentions, aren’t immediately realized. Handling emotions is just like that -- it’s a series of choices that takes time, patience and love-filled effort. It’s an ongoing journey to “I AM,” an acronym I use to simplify the need to Identify, Acknowledge and eventually, Manage feelings.

WAY PAST MAD by Hallee Adelman, illustrated by Sandra de la Prada

(Albert Whitman & Company)

WAY PAST WORRIED by Hallee Adelman, illustrated by Sandra de la Prada

(Albert Whitman & Company)

Along this bump-filled journey, kids should feel safe and supported. In classrooms and recess yards, I’ve seen plenty of kids lash out on others when they felt hurt. As a child, I bumbled in this same way. My book characters make these mistakes. In Way Past Mad, Keya gets mad at her little brother, but takes her anger out on her best friend. She tells Hooper, “I don’t even like you,” and allows her mad to “swell and spread like a rash.” In Way Past Jealous, Yaz doesn’t like the attention that Debby is getting for her drawings. So she sneaks into Miss Pimmy’s classroom and yanks Debby’s picture off the 'Stars of the Week' board.

Kids need to know that their parents, teachers, counselors, librarians and other community members care about them. After a misstep, children should not have to feel shame or label themselves as “bad.”

WAY PAST JEALOUS by Hallee Adelman, illustrated by Karen Wall

(Albert Whitman & Company)

This message is not exclusively for kids. Adult characters, while caring, also have unintended mistakes in my books. They make excuses or dismiss feelings. Why? I know firsthand that sometimes we mess up before we find better solutions.

I love that readers get to “look there,” and “learn here.” Before a child can say, “I was mean to my best friend when I was mad,” they might find it easier to look at the characters and identify, “Keya was so mean to Hooper.” Before saying, “I get scared when my parents yell,” a child might need to hear Quinn admit this, in My Quiet Ship. A reader who sees James run off from his best friend Sanj in Way Past Sad, might say, “I feel badly for Sanj,” but then later be able to acknowledge, “Sometimes I push people away when I want them close, too.” Sharing picture books with big emotions provides space for kids to grapple, and gives them room to explore the complexity of feelings.

MY QUIET SHIP by Hallee Adelman, illustrated by Sonia Sánchez

(Albert Whitman & Company)

Sadness can be mixed with anger. Jealousy can be mixed with fear. Feelings can be layered and challenging. But of course, they can also be blissful. Readers see the characters shift. They manage feelings by talking to trusted friends and adults, finding the root of their emotions, taking deep breaths, working together, being alone, pushing outside of their comfort zones, finding quiet spaces to ponder, using their imaginations, and drawing their moods. The characters run, dance, play, connect with others, take responsibility, and no matter what, they remember the good in themselves and others.

WAY PAST SAD by Hallee Adelman, illustrated by Karen Wall

(Albert Whitman & Company)

I have been lucky that the team at Albert Whitman & Company chose sensitive illustrators like Sonia Sánchez, Sandra de la Prada and Karen Wall. These talented artists present characters showing deep emotions and finding strength. It is my hope that our books spark conversations, inspire future creators, and help readers create or uncover new tools for managing their great big feelings.

Teachers, parents and kids should always embrace fun on their “I AM” journeys. At, readers can find Way Past Fun card games to explore how to shift emotions, Power Pose posters to encourage them to stand strong in the face of hard feelings, and videos like baking clips to help kids and classrooms Mash their Mad or Whip their Worries. All of these activities are designed to allow for silly moments and continued discussions.

If we want our kids to grow up mentally healthy and connected to one another, we must support them on their “I AM” journey with honesty, love, and exposure to all types of reactions. Adults need to validate and tolerate the great big feelings that children face, even when it is hard. As it says in Way Past Mad, sometimes we can turn the corner and head the right way, together.



Hallee is kindly offering three A Novel Mind readers their choice of any set of three of her titles, plus fun swag items that help reinforce SEL learning with kids. To enter:

1) Follow Hallee on Twitter at

2) Follow A Novel Mind on Twitter at and tweet us the phrase "WAY PAST" to indicate you're entering. Winners chosen in about a week. Good Luck!


Hallee Adelman is the author of My Quiet Ship and The Great Big Feelings Series, with titles including Way Past Mad, Way Past Worried and Way Past Jealous. She is the executive producer on The Social Dilemma and UsKids, documentary films that address teen mental health related to technology use and gun violence. With a Ph.D. in education, Hallee has taught elementary through university students and has been an advocate for quality education and mental health initiatives. She has served various youth-focused organizations such as Simon’s Heart, the Franklin Institute, and the Philadelphia School Partnership. Hallee is honored to share a post with A Novel Mind and is grateful for the work they do for teachers, librarians and parents.


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