Keep Your Head Up

Blog banner featuring the cover of the book Keep Your Head Up by Aliya King Neil and Charly Palmer.


How do you turn your day around when it’s off to a bad start? In Keep Your Head Up, D. starts his day with a cloud over his head. He is in a bad mood. His alarm did not go off, and his favorite toothpaste is missing. Things aren’t any better at school. D. forgot his gym clothes, and he got stuck with the junky laptop. The cloud continues to hover above D.’s head.

D. keeps trying to turn things around. He recognizes his feelings, and uses positive self-talk to manage his emotions. D. hopes to turn things around if he gets the “Recycler” job. The “Recycler” can take long walks and check in with the principal. This job helps D. feel better. But someone else gets to be the “Recycler” for the day.

When paint gets on D.’s uniform, he’s had it. He has a meltdown. The teacher sends him to the principal’s office. Here, D. cools down under the gentle guidance of the principal and his parents. They remind D. that when days are crummy, all he can do is try to keep his head up.

The acrylic illustrations in this book add texture to D.’s feelings. Readers will notice the cloud that hangs over D.’s head. The cloud takes on different shapes and colors as D. runs into problems. A close up of D.’s “Bad Day” face will connect readers with their own reactions to anger.

Image of two pages in the picture book Keep Your Head Up by Aliya King Neil and Charly Palmer.

Keep Your Head Up Lesson Activity

AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Collaborate/Think III.A.2 Learners identify collaborative opportunities by developing new understandings through engagement in a learning group.

What I love about Keep Your Head Up is that D. recognizes his feelings and has a few strategies to manage them. When he finally gives up trying to keep things together, he has a meltdown. The great thing about this story is that D. does not get in trouble for expressing his feelings. Instead, the principal and his parents answer his questions about how he can turn things around when he doesn’t feel like it.

Before reading the book, invite learners to think of a day when nothing went right. Ask how they felt when they had a bad day. How did they react to their circumstances?

Explain that you will read a story about a boy who is having a bad day. Say, “Let’s see how he recognizes and manages his emotions.”

After reading the story, discuss D.’s strategy for managing his emotions. Invite learners to describe a time when they had a bad day. How did they work through it?

Divide learners into groups. Explain that they will work together to create a “Things To Try When Having a Bad Day” poster. Start by looking at examples of infographics to get an idea of how to illustrate the posters. Point to great examples of visuals that attract readers. Then, invite learners to brainstorm and sketch some ideas. Hang posters up where learners can refer to them throughout the day.

I hope you’ll buy this book after watching author Aliya King Neil read Keep Your Head Up.

Take a look at a tweet by Aliya King Neil. In the post, we learn the story behind the book and meet D.!

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