Book review on a wonderful series for social emotional health

Frustration and losing your cool is never fun…especially when you are young. Pushed someone? Hit or even bit someone? Yikes. Feeling upset and grumpy? Thinking today is the worst day ever? Better learn how to control those feelings! Those big strong emotions can get the best of anyone, but early childhood is the BEST time to learn how to manage those emotions.

When I came across these two books, I was thrilled–not just because they were published by Free Spirit Publishing and deal with two common issues I commonly talk to parents about, but because each is written with one simple but useful technique in mind.

Check out BOTH books from William Mulcahy…Zach Apologies and Zach Gets Frustrated

In Zach Apologizes, he gets worked up about his little brother playing with his favorite toy without asking and he ends up making the wrong choice and shoving his brother. Mom sends him to his room in a time out. The real learning is when mom comes to check on him and teaches him the Four-Square Apology method to help him think through how his choices hurt someone else and what he can do next time his temper flares.

Children’s books are a great way to promote social skills but giving you and your child time together reading!

I love this method! It is always a good idea to help your child realize when they have hurt someone else that it is important to do the right thing and apologize. However, simply telling them to apologize misses the mark on helping them internalize and learn from their wrong choices. Instead, turning an everyday moment into an opportunity for personal growth is best. In this 27 page hardcover book, Zach learns how to think about what he did, how it made his brother feel, what can be done next time and how to make it up to his brother who was hurt by Zach’s wrong choice. Using the four-square apology and ensuring they use all four parts when saying sorry helps children take responsibility for their actions. It also highlights the value of the relationship with a key focus on actions to take to make things right.

“You’re a good person even though you did something wrong.”

-From Zach Apologizes by William Mulcahy

It’s hard to apologize, especially when your feelings are already feeling so raw and bruised from knowing the wrong choice was made…but by gently encouraging your child to learn not just to apologize but HOW to apologize can go a long way.

RELATED: Social Development in Preschoolers (

In Zach Gets Frustrated, Zach battles his own insecurities with his inability to use the kite at the beach. When learning a new skill, kids can quickly become frustrated because they find they can’t do it or can’t get something to work like they imagined. Children who are perfectionists or those who want desperately to be independent but just don’t know yet how to do something for themselves can easily get overwhelmed. Zach lets his frustration get the best of him and becomes grumpy and demands to go home. In the book, Zach’s dad helps him realize what he is feeling (frustrated) and that anyone can get frustrated but when feeling this way, it is important to talk about it.

“Frustration is what we feel when things don’t go the way we want them to…it’s important to talk about the thing that frustrates you. That’s why you name it: You say in words what the problem is.”

-From Zach Gets Frustrated by William Mulcahy
The Frustration Triangle –from Zach Gets Frustrated by William Mulcahy

When kids are young, they need plenty of opportunities to practice these essential social-emotional skills. It can set them up for success with friendships and school.

Both of these books are published by Free Spirit Publishing in hardcover format and are priced at $12.99 each. The illustrations are beautiful and vivid. I love the fact that in one Zach is supported by his mother to learn how to apologize, in the other Zach has an opportunity to learn from his father. Parenting doesn’t necessarily have to fall on the shoulders of one parent or the other. If you don’t have the books, parents can still role model how we handle these situations or feelings--this is just as powerful!

These are two of the five books of the Zach Rules series. The other three, Zach Makes Mistakes (Zach learns from his teacher the 3-step process called Key to Mistakes), Zach Hangs in There (learns about the value of positive self-talk and perseverance from his best friend) and Zach Stands Up (Zach learns how to not be a bystander when his best friend is being bullied with the Stand up to bullying STAR) are equally just as practical to use with your children. By focusing on a single simple but critical social-emotional technique in each title, these books will be your next go to for helping your child learn best practices when it comes to navigating early childhood.

Hint: another bonus, you can download the accompanying worksheet for each technique at Free Spirit Publishing!

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Written by

Nerissa Bauer

I am a behavioral pediatrician, consultant, child advocate and blogger. I am a wife, mommy to 2 amazing children and 2 golden retrievers. Love cooking, travel, reading, tap and creating.