The Bad Mood and the Stick

Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
The Bad Mood and the Stick Book Poster Image
Quirky, whimsical, insightful look at passing moods.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

In a simple, clear, kid-friendly way, it shows how feelings can change. Also shows the logic of cause and effect (e.g., a man gets in a bad mood after he's frightened by a stick-carrying raccoon and falls in the mud). Shows the role chance plays in our lives.

Positive Messages

"You never know what is going to happen." Everybody can get in a bad mood once in a while. Bad moods don't stay forever; they pass. Even if you're in a bad mood, it can change if something pleasant happens to you, like someone makes you laugh, you see something surprising, or someone buys you an ice cream cone. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Curly, the little girl in a bad mood as the book opens, cheers up (she enjoys poking her brother with a stick) and obeys her mother. A sweet romance develops between the man who fell in the mud and the lady at the dry cleaners, who laughs when he takes off his pants to get them cleaned. "She took one look at Lou in his underwear, and the mood flew right out the window." 

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Lemony Snicket's The Bad Mood and the Stick deals with feelings and how everyone can get in a bad mood sometime. The story pictures a bad mood like an angry-faced cloud that moves from person to person and hovers over the one who's in a bad mood -- until that person's mood changes and it moves on. But the tone is light and funny, and the inanimate stick triggers some of the action that affects people's moods. This would be a great book to spark discussion about feelings and how they can change due to changing circumstances. 

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What's the story?

A bad mood moves from person to person and a stick gets passed around, too, in THE BAD MOOD AND THE STICK. This quirky look at fleeting emotions shows a whimsical sequence of events, starting with a girl who's in a bad mood (the mood hovers over her head like a cloud) and a stick just lying on the ground. When she picks up the stick and pokes her brother with it, that cheers her up and she tosses the stick into the bushes. Now her irritated mom holds the bad mood in her arms. Then the raccoon who caught the stick scares a man walking by. The man falls in the mud, and now the bad mood hovers over him, and so on, till the happy ending at a wedding where all the book's characters are invited -- even the raccoon.

Is it any good?

With whimsy and a knowing sense of human moodiness, Lemony Snicket helps kids see the temporary nature of a bad mood. Illustrator Matthew Forsythe's colorful, retro cartoon-like art pictures it as a hovering, movable cloud -- which helps kids grasp that a bad mood comes and goes. The Bad Mood and the Stick is delightful as a simple, funny story (they'll giggle at the man pictured in his underwear) with a touch of romance (the muddied light-skinned man falls in love with the brown-skinned lady at the dry cleaners who cleans his pants). But on another level, it can spark a discussion of feelings, how chance can affect what happens to us, and how everybody gets in a bad mood once in a while for various reasons.

The stick has a role to play, too, and can trigger a good or bad mood, depending on how it's used.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how a bad mood is shown in The Bad Mood and the Stick. The artist portrays the bad mood as a sort of cloud with a grumpy face. How do you picture your bad mood?

  • When you're in a bad mood, what gets you out of it? What puts you in a good mood? 

  • Do you think the girl who drops her ice cream at the end is about to be in a bad mood? What clue on the page tells you what might happen?  

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