In the latest picture book by Japanese author-illustrator Komako Sakai, a young rabbit and his mother share an all-too-common experience. The rabbit boy, testing his independence, exclaims, “I AM SO MAD AT YOU!” as his mother sleeps in late on a Saturday morning.

Unable to rouse her, he begins a litany of complaints. She’s always demanding “hurry up—hurry up—hurry up,” but then makes him wait while talking to a friend; she’s always yelling for no good reason; and she forgets to wash his clothes, forcing him to wear the same pair of socks he wore yesterday. His mother only responds by drawing the covers up over her face.

She awakens, however, when her son threatens to leave and closes the door behind him. The following two wordless pages prove that this tender book is as much for parents as for their children. As the mother rabbit sits up in bed and looks toward the closed door, young readers will note that she looks sad, but adult readers will know that there’s some regret and guilt mixed in with the sullenness. Yet happiness and forgiveness prevail when the boy quickly returns and discovers that his mother has missed him.

On light blue backgrounds with a subdued palette and textured brush strokes, Sakai creates a beautifully quiet atmosphere, much as she did in her acclaimed earlier book, The Snow Day. But in Mad at Mommy, she also reveals the range of emotions in the parent-child relationship. Child readers will understand the admonishment the rabbit boy feels as a finger from above points at his unfinished dinner and a menacing hand pulls him to walk faster. Adults will understand the mother’s frustration as a clueless son lets water, soap bubbles and toys overflow from the bathroom sink.

Readers of all ages will appreciate the final page—a clothesline with clean socks—and know that mother and son are at peace, for now.

Luckily, Angela Leeper’s twin six-year-old daughters are only occasionally mad at their mommy.

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