Wonderful Tantrums

A Perfectly Wonderful Tantrum by Susan Fry

Tantrums are shattering experiences – for parents, for children, and sometimes for windows. My boys can go from calm to ballistic in the blink of an eye, often for no apparent reason. Twenty minutes later? They’re back to normal, as if nothing ever happened.

I’ve read the advice books. But I’ve decided that the only thing that really works is just to let a storm run its course.


Finn Throws a Fit, by David Elliot, illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering, perfectly captures a little boy’s sound and fury, and his parents’ helplessness, in a way that will inspire smiles instead of tears.

The book begins peacefully, as so many fits do. Cute, happy Finn grins up at the reader. “Finn likes peaches. Usually.” That one word foreshadows everything to come.

Sure enough, by the next page, Finn’s mood has swung. “But today, Finn doesn’t like peaches. Today, Finn doesn’t like anything.” As his parents desperately offer toys and food, an inky little storm cloud forms over Finn’s head. “Uh-oh! Thunder in the nursery!” Soon, the tempest erupts. Lightning, tidal waves, hurricanes, and blizzards rip through the house. And when Finn kicks? “An earthquake shakes the world.”

The exaggeration may be comic, but it’s also a wonderful metaphor for the strong emotions surrounding a tantrum – both for parents and for children.

Ering’s illustrations express the frenzy beautifully. Chaotic swirls of mustard yellow, dark green, gray, and black mimic the colors and textures of a storm. Frenetic, zig-zagging lines and jittery scribbles make the pages seem to vibrate along with Finn’s rage. And Finn’s mouth twists and stretches in a remarkable – and giggle-worthy – variety of screeches.

What can Finn’s parents do? Nothing, except cower under the furniture. “The fit goes on and on. It lasts until it doesn’t.”

Finn Throws a Fit doesn’t try to prevent a tantrum, or even to explain one. It doesn’t judge Finn for his anger or the parents for being powerless to stop him. The book simply documents how a fit can quickly make everyone feel out of control.

But it also shows that both sides can quickly recover.

When an exhausted, overwhelmed little Finn finally slumps to the floor, “The waters dry up. The winds die down.” The colors change to pinks, bright blues, and happy yellows. Finn hugs his mother’s legs. “He’d like those peaches now. Please.” And both parents smile down at him lovingly.

No wonder my kids and I keep reaching for this book.

Susan Fry is a writer and mother in the San Francisco Bay Area. She’s written for Stanford Magazine, salon, the San Jose Mercury News, and many other publications. You will find links to all of her children’s book reviews on our Toys & Books page.

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