Little, Brown & Company, September 2008
Illustrated by Molly Bang
Leo hates it when Mommy says “No,” and one day it feels like she just won’t stop saying it. “No string beans in the fish bowl!” “No toothpaste down the toilet!” “No drawing on the wall!” Leo is so angry and frustrated he says “I hate you!” – and then his biggest fear sets in: Will Mommy hate him for saying those three words? Mother and son both learn important lessons as they deal with Leo’s strong but perfectly normal feelings in THE DAY LEO SAID I HATE YOU! published by Little, Brown & Company. This is Robie’s first picture book collaboration with illustrator Molly Bang.
Selected as a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year for 2008. “When mother/son relations go nuclear, Harris’s solution is so humane and, yes, replicable that booksellers might consider shelving copies of this vibrant book in the parenting section.”
“Harris and Bang are so simpatico that it’s almost surprising that no one thought of bringing them together sooner. Their hero is sulking after some serial misbehaving — evoked via vibrant collages of photos and cut paper — when Mommy’s disciplining finally pushes him to an act of provocative communication. Bang portrays Leo as almost demonic, his flushed face ballooning above his tiny body as the titular words blast out of his mouth. Instantly mortified — his too-large head suddenly makes him seem awkward and vulnerable — he now has a new problem. Could the words he spoke in anger negate Mommy’s love for him? Harris is not (and never has been) interested in portraying Stepford families. When Leo weakly points out that, after all, Mommy expressed a hatred of broccoli at dinner the night before, she loses it. “BROCCOLI?” — Bang punctuates the already expressive typography with photos of the vegetable — “I am NOT broccoli! You are NOT broccoli!” But this breach is not, of course, irreparable, and the way Mommy brings it off is so humane, sensible, and, yes, replicable, that booksellers might actually want to consider filing copies of this book in the parenting section.”
“In this companion to When Sophie Gets Angry… Really, Really Angry (Scholastic, 1999), Harris’s wisdom and sense of humor regarding early childhood behavior complement Bang’s depictions of a little boy’s strong emotions. Vivid colors, scanned and digitally manipulated paper cutouts and photographs, and fonts of varied sizes portray the tension between a preoccupied mother and her bored youngster. Leo rolls tomatoes in the house until they burst, drops string beans into the fish bowl, and squeezes toothpaste all over the toilet, collecting maternal “no’s” as he goes. Ultimately pushed off the page by a fiery, life-size negation, the boy enters his bedroom, declares it a no-rule zone, and takes out his frustration by coloring a frowning mommy on his wall. The confrontation builds as she ignores his dictate, and Leo utters the fateful phrase. The tiny boy in the next spread is a picture of remorse and regret. The denouement offers a realistic and loving dialogue that should be required reading in parenting and anger-management classes. Mom takes a deep breath, eventually gets a grip, and together they talk about when it is and isn’t acceptable to verbalize this four-letter word. Children will delight in the realism of the collage elements (cloud-covered sheets, shaggy stuffed animals, exploding broccoli spears) and relate to the intensity of the scenes in which Leo struggles with his rage and lack of power. It may dawn on parents that sometimes playing is better than getting another thing done.”
-Wendy Lukehart, School Library Journal
“The H-word gets the full attention of two of picture-book literature’s finest emotional plumbers. When Leo’s naughty behavior earns him “no” after “no” from his mother, the boy stalks off to his room, “where nobody can say no!” A quick (and unflattering) drawing of Mommy on the wall, however, demonstrates that she can say no wherever she likes. Furious, Leo bursts out with the three dreaded words: “I hate you!” he screams, his giant mouth and the angry red-and-yellow block letters dominating the page. Immediately, he wishes he could take it back, but though Mommy is disappointed in him, a healing discussion about the difference between broccoli and people ensues. Bang utilizes the same shock of colors and shapes she employed in When Sophie Gets Angry… Really, Really Angry (2000), with some mixed media as well, to great emotional effect. When Leo shouts, his anger is palpable — as is his instant regret. Harris’s patient take on a difficult topic will make this must have reading for many a parent and child.”
“This book will resonate with older preschoolers and mothers alike. Children get frustrated with rules and disappointments and as they learn to manage their feelings and their words, sometimes they let those not-so-nice three little words fly, “I hate you!” Molly Bang’s own bright and scribbled illustrations underscore the emotions conveyed by the story, and Leo’s own drawings are used as an element of the story as well. I think it’s a great way to open a conversation (or simply let the story teach without further pressing the issue).”
-Five Minutes for Books.com
“We’ve all been there. Leo’s having a bad day and so is Mom. He does a series of naughty things, like rolling tomatoes across the floor, and pushes Mom a little too far. After retreating to his room, Mom comes in to find him drawing an unflattering picture of her on the wall. She is not happy. And that’s when he lets it fire: “I hate you.” See how Mom handles it. The book, Nia found, was “Great because it’s FANTABULOUS.”
-Albany Times Union
“Robie Harris tackles all kinds of issues in her books for kids — everything from sibling rivalry to sex.
Now Harris takes on a loaded four-letter word — hate — in her book, “The Day Leo Said I Hate You!” Spectacularly illustrated by Caldecott Honor-winning artist Molly Bang, Harris’ new book is a realistic yet reassuring look at how parents can help young children learn the power of their words, especially the “H” word.
“In every family, emotions fly out because it is safe,” Harris said in a recent telephone interview. “I wanted to show children that you can hate the sand between your toes or smelly cheese. But, when you say ‘I hate you’ to a person, it makes the person feel very, very bad.”
As the book opens, a preschooler named Leo is having a bad day. It seems that his mother is telling him nothing but “no”: “No dancing on the table!”; “No squeezing toothpaste down the toilet!”; “No yelling Mommy Salami while I’m on the phone!”
Furious, Leo retreats to his room, where he uses his crayons to draw a mean picture of his mom on his wall. Of course, when his mom discovers what he’s doing, she hollers at him: “No drawing on the wall!”
That’s the breaking point for Leo, who ends up shouting, “I hate you!” to his mom. Both Leo and his mother are stunned. Harris writes: “Leo wanted to stuff ‘I hate you’ right back into his mouth. But it was too late. The words popped out before he could stop them.” Bang’s two-page illustration shows a frightened Leo, shocked at what he’s just done, set against a background of deep purple that mirrors his mood.
Then Leo and his mom have to figure out how to deal with this moment, which they do by talking about why it’s OK to say you hate something like broccoli, but not OK to say you hate a person. Most importantly, however, Leo’s mom reassures him that she still loves him, saying: “I hated it when you said those three words to me. But Leo, I could never ever hate you — because I love you.”
“Ultimately, this is a book about love,” said Harris, who is a grandmother. “I don’t do message books, but I hope that I’ve told a story that can help parents and kids see that something like this isn’t the end of the world, but part of the ups and downs of everyday life.”
She added: “There are so many picture books that say ‘I love you.’ But what about those other three words?”
Harris published two other wonderful picture books this year, “Maybe a Bear Ate It,” which focuses on a young reader’s angst at “losing” his book; and “Mail Harry to the Moon,” which highlights an older sibling’s creative efforts to rid himself of his baby brother. Both are illustrated with panache by Michael Emberley, Harris’ frequent collaborator.
It’s clear that Harris enjoys taking on difficult issues. Nearly 15 years ago, Harris published one of the first — and still one of the best — sex-education books for kids ages 10 and up, “It’s Perfectly Normal.” Responding to parents’ requests, Harris has written two sex-ed books for younger kids: “It’s So Amazing!,” for readers ages 5-10; and “It’s Not the Stork!,” for readers ages 4-7.
Currently, Harris is in the process of updating “It’s Perfectly Normal” for its 15th anniversary next year, as well as “It’s So Amazing!,” which celebrates its 10th anniversary. She’s also just sold a picture book about facing fears, “When Lions Roar,” and is working with Emberley on a series for preschoolers called “All About Us.”
Harris’ sex-ed books — especially “It’s Perfectly Normal” — have attracted challenges from parents and others who oppose Harris’ straightforward discussion of masturbation, HIV and birth control. In one recent, well-publicized challenge, a woman in Lewiston, Maine, checked out both of her local library’s copies of “It’s Perfectly Normal” and has refused to return them, saying the book contained “sexually graphic, amoral, abnormal” material.
“It’s Perfectly Normal” often is on the American Library Association’s list of frequently challenged books. This year, it ranks ninth.
“I would never say that every family, every library, every school should have my books,” Harris said. “But any child … who chooses to read the books I’ve written should be able to do it.”
-Karen Macpherson, Scripps Howard News Service
“Oh My! Someone said it! They actually printed the words I HATE YOU! on the front cover of a children’s book. Isn’t this the equivalent of using those bad words like “Shut up” and “butt”? Which, by the way, were not bad words when I was growing up like they are to most of the parents around me now in Nashville. Still, Little, Brown & Co. are publishing The Day Leo Said I HATE YOU! which is written by Robie H. Harris and illustrated by Molly Bang. It’s being released September 1, 2008 and needs to go on your book orders NOW. I’m thinking multiple copies and awards coming soon.
Bravo! A little controversy is good for you and promotes communicating. Parents really need this book and shouldn’t dodge the issue any more. Kids have negative emotions, too. This will be an excellent family read aloud. You may see some parents sneak it out of the library because they would never acknowledge that their children get angry with them. Hah! I have 4 boys. I know better.
I’m happy that Robie Harris has written this because I am a big fan of her older books It’s Perfectly Normal and It’s So Amazing! Sorry, folks, you won’t have a huge book challenge with this one. This is a perfect book for our younger crowd. I will even be able to use it in schools.
Molly Bang! WOW! Molly has outdone herself with the illustrations in this book. I’m a big fan of Molly Bang’s so this means this is a star book. I am so fascinated with her use of collage, photographs, and telling multiple stories in a single page. The toy animals help readers react with the text and have a life of their own. I found myself investigating every page to see what was drawn, what was photographed, what was “real” or not. The broccoli page may be one of my favorites. You will have to see it to believe it.
The designers of this picture book have surpassed my dreams of how to handle this topic. I love the text and every detail of the way the words appear on a page. I’m reading this from a review copy so the loose pages keep falling over the sofa. Still, I was hooked when I opened the cover to see the simple drawing on the end pages. Such emotion conveyed with a single drawing. The drawing on the back end pages is so different and I look forward to sharing this with young audiences so we can examine all the design elements. What? You’re worried about dissecting a picture book? Don’t be. This one is a wonderful read. Go straight through the first time, then go back and savor it. I can’t wait to ask students which page is their favorite.
This title excited me so much that I didn’t even stop to see what the biblioblogosphere is saying about it. I didn’t care. I loved this hate book so much that I had to interrupt my morning to tell you to go get it. Perhaps it’s because I’m working with teens and tweens now that my perception of being hated has sharpened. I’m entering the arena of crazy emotions much like preschool emotions so I need a few tools. Thanks, Robie and Molly for an excellent title.”
-Diane Chen, Practically Paradise, the School Library Journal blog
“Before Harry, there was ME!” says the smiling boy in Robie Harris’ marvelous picture book “Mail Harry to the Moon!” It’s the first of two new works by the author of “It’s Perfectly Normal.” Both books are engaging read-alouds for tots with tempers — and, we hope, a budding sense of humor.
In “Moon,” a new big brother is struggling for attention while Mom and Grandma hover over the newborn, Harry. Author Harris nails big brother’s emotional tirades, but Michael Emberley nearly steals the show with his funny illustrations. His cartoon-like drawings in bright colors capture every nuance in big brother’s angry eyes, slumped shoulders and gritted teeth, telegraphing his mondo irritation over baby vomit on his face, baby in Grandma’s lap and baby screaming. He shouts about tossing Harry into a trash can or flushing him down the toilet. However, when he wakes up and there are no Harry noises, he looks worried.
Although Harris’ resolution may be more pie in the sky than one could expect, it’s an ending every parent would love.
Equally sensitive is Harris’ book about Leo, an attention-hungry boy who explodes with words he instantly regrets. It happens in “The Day Leo Said I Hate You!” (Little, Brown, $16.99, 40 pages, ages 4-8). The day begins with Leo hearing only “No!” from his mom, who’s working at her computer. Her admonishments come after he puts green beans in the fishbowl and squeezes toothpaste into the toilet bowl. Thoroughly frustrated, Leo retreats to his room and draws a mad Mom on his wall.
When he unleashes the three dreadful words, he’s shocked. So is his mom, but they talk their way to a loving resolution. Molly Bang’s colorful, expressive collages perfectly match Harris’ emotional text.
-Judy Green, The Sacramento Bee
“Story: In a reassuring manner, Robie H. Harris and Molly Bang portray what happens when a little boy feels SO frustrated and SO mad at a parent who has said NO all day long. Together, Harris and Bang delicately navigate not only the momentary angry feelings and outbursts of young children, but also the most profound bonds between a parent and a child.
Story behind the story: This book has been in the works ever since Robie and the previous publisher of Little, Brown, David Ford, ran into each other at the 2002 American Library Association convention. Both commented on the fact that there were so many “I LOVE YOU!” picture books on display, many overly sentimental and vapid. They surmised that this was most likely an empathic response to 9/11 — a way to reassure our young children. Together, they wondered if anyone had ever written a picture book about three equally powerful words — “I HATE YOU!” David’s response was, “I’d like to publish that book and you could write it!” Robie has spent much of her career writing about young children’s powerful emotions. So it is no surprise that after many years, she was able to successfully craft the compelling and reassuring story of Leo and his Mommy.”
-The Picnic Basket, www.thepicnic-basket.com
“A real delight! I just can’t wait to share this one with my five-year old who doesn’t just hear no from Mom all day long, but also from everyone else in our family because he’s the littlest one. As usual Robie Harris cuts right to the heart of the matter in a way kiddos she targets can understand and in The Day Leo Said I Hate You! she does so in a sensitive and humorous way. Good job!”
-Lisa Barker, Jelly Mom