Maya Was Grumpy

Written and Illustrated by
Courtney Pippin-Mathur

Maya was grumpy. She didn’t know why she was grumpy. She was just in a crispy, cranky, grumpy, grouchy mood. She didn’t want to read or color or eat banana slices or wear her favorite shorts or go outside and play. So she GRUMPED, GLUMPED, CLUMPED, and THUMPED around the house.

Can Grandma’s patience and humor coax Maya out of her bad mood?

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  • Christopher Award Winner, Books for Young People, 2014
  • Indie Next Top Ten Kids’ Great Read, Summer 2013, chosen by independent booksellers
  • Scholastic Book Club Selection
  • New Hampshire Ladybug Award list, 2014


From Kirkus Reviews
Although the title character is Maya, this story is actually about her clever grandmother, who tames both the grumpy child and her chaotic hair. When Maya wakes up on the wrong side of the bed, she does not know why she is grumpy. “She was just in a crispy, cranky, grumpy, grouchy mood.” Not only that, her hair grows ever more unruly and invasive as Maya spreads her gloom throughout the house. With a smirk and a knowing eye, Gramma begins to untangle the moody mess. “Well then,” says Gramma, “I guess that means no hunting for hippos after breakfast.” Pippin-Mathur’s watercolor-and-ink illustrations capture all of the whimsical and wacky things grumpy people would never do, like bathing baby elephants and tickling tarantulas. With patience and imagination, Gramma’s humorous ideas slowly push away the blues, and Maya’s sweet disposition returns. Delightfully, Gramma keeps her promise, and readers find Maya and her twin brothers playing with hippos, crocodiles, elephants and even tarantulas.  Lighter than Alexander’s bad day [Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day] and less emotional than Sophie’s [When Sophie Gets Angry – Really, Really Angry…], this is still a visual delight from a new author with a charismatic cast of characters. (Picture book. 4-8)

From Children’s Literature
Maya wakes up—perhaps on the wrong side of the bed—and finds herself in a very grumpy mood, which also is reflected in her stuffed pet lion. Nothing seems to shake the grouchy mood, not coloring pictures, wearing her favorite green shorts, or playing outside. From the illustrations, Maya’s hair seems like an unmanageably wild cloud when she is in a bad mood. When she reaches the kitchen, Gramma recognizes Maya’s state of grumpiness and mentions the different things that Maya may miss out on while she is being cranky and scowling. The day may not be good for hunting for hippos, bathing baby elephants, or tickling tarantulas. Find out if Gramma can change Maya’s mood and perhaps encourage a giggle or two by sharing this story. The bright colors and funny illustrations may attract the attention of young children while the story is read. For children who wonder about the character’s motivation, the story does not indicate why Maya awakens grumpy, and Maya herself cannot explain her dark, cloudy mood.

From Publishers Weekly
When a girl named Maya wakes up in a “crispy, cranky, grumpy, grouchy mood,” she tries to spread her gloom around (“The only thing Maya wanted to do was grouch around the house and share her bad mood”), but her cat, younger brothers, and grandmother aren’t having any of it. It’s indefatigable Gramma who wears down Maya’s defenses by making one goofy suggestion after another. “Bathing baby elephants would probably be a bad idea today if you’re grumpy,” she tells Maya, who rolls her eyes in response. “I did have plans to slide down the neck of a giraffe later,” she continues, “but I guess we can reschedule.” The cheerful palette of debut talent Pippin-Mathur’s palette is a force for positivity in itself, combating Maya’s grumpiness with brightly colored watercolor washes. Maya’s hair is basically an extension of her personality, a giant, unruly mass of orange that surges and swirls as she stomps and scowls, but calms down when Gramma finally gets a smile out of Maya. Pippin-Mathur is a mother herself, and one suspects that Gramma’s methodology is grounded in real-life research.

From School Library Journal
Maya woke up on the wrong side of the bed. She doesn’t want to read or go outside and play, and she tries to spread her “crispy,  cranky, grumpy, grouchy” mood as she “glumps, clumps and thumps” around the house. She scowls at her grandmother, who hopes to  improve her disposition by suggesting outrageous activities such as hunting for hippos, tickling tarantulas, and bathing baby elephants,  which eventually make it hard for Maya to keep a smile off her face. Children will identify with the youngster, and parents may wish  to try Gramma’s clever technique when faced with an out-of-sorts child. The text could be used for a lesson on alliteration,  rhyming, sequencing, and more. It’s also perfect for enriching vocabulary as the descriptive words are in bold on each page.  The busy and colorful pencil, ink, and watercolor illustrations add to the charm of this story as Maya’s out-of-control hair is  transformed into neat ponytails as her mood improves.–Sarah Polace, Cuyahoga Public Library System, OH

From San Francisco Book Review
Maya starts the day in a bad mood. Readers not only read of her grumpy mood, but also can see it with illustrations of her frown and  wild, flaming hair disarrayed. She grouches around the house, looking to share her bad mood with the cat, birds, and her brothers, giving  her biggest loud growl to her grandmother. Gramma, however, knows just what to do to change Maya’s frown to giggles and a smile,  dissipating the foul mood. The grandmother shows her wisdom and unconditional love for Maya, using silly things she expects Maya  would not want to do that day because of her grumpy mood. Children will witness the transformation in Maya, right up to her big hug for  her grandmother and their going out to play with Maya now feeling so much better. Courtney Pippin-Mathur wrote and illustrated a story to which children will both relate and enjoy. What better way to dispel a bad mood  than to use imagination and silliness to make a bad situation improve! Adults sharing this book with children can learn much from Gramma’s calm solution to the problem.

From Kate’s Bookery
…vividly painted for young readers to see, in colors brighter than the brightest imagination.… Maya’s wild and fiery, curly-swirly mass of hair…covers the first few pages and serves as the embodiment of her grumpiness. I don’t know how Pippin-Mathur came up with this hair-as-mood idea, but it is just great!”

From The Horn Book Guide
When Maya wakes up in a “crispy, cranky, grumpy, grouchy mood,” she snarls at everyone. Grandma laments that they will have to cancel plans to hunt hippos and tickle tarantulas, eventually getting Maya to giggle at these far-out plans. [in] brightly colored watercolors Maya’s hair grows wilder the crosser she gets.”

From NY Parenting – Brooklyn
Author-illustrator Courtney Pippin-Mathur dazzles with her first picture book, Maya Was Grumpy. Pippin-Mathur’s vibrant watercolor illustrations depict a decidedly stormy Maya who stomps around the house, while her patient Grammy attempts to coax her out of her funk.” The illustrator dramatizes the scope of this sour mood by depicting our harumphing protagonist with a wilder and wilder mane of curly, golden hair. Grammy’s persistent good humor and comic suggestions wiggle at the edges of Maya’s frown until she’s ready to turn it upside down. The book will certainly delight readers ages 4-8, but it also reminds caregivers to maintain their sense of humor when confronted by a storm front. Because when cooler heads prevail, the whole family can get back to the important business of having fun.

From Portland Book Review
Have you ever yawned, stretched and opened your eyes, ready to greet the new day, only to discover that you are in a terrible mood? We’ve all had one of those mornings, when the only song we’re singing in the shower is the grumpasaurus blues. Meet Maya, a wild-haired little girl with a bad case of the grumps. Poor Maya. She doesn’t know why, but she’s in a crispy, cranky, grumpy, grouchy mood. Nothing pulls Maya out of her funk – not a good book or her favorite shorts or coloring crayons or even a yummy banana chip snack! Maya decides to grouch around the house and share her bad mood. How thoughtful! How will the birds, the cat, Maya’s baby brothers and Gramma react to all her growling and clumping? With a confident smile, Gramma reminds Maya of many things she had planned for the day that grumpy girls simply cannot do. Grumpy girls can’t hunt for hippos, inspect a crocodile’s mouth, bathe baby elephants or tickle tarantulas. Will Gamma’s silly suggestions cause Maya to giggle or smile? Can Maya be coaxed out of her grumpy mood and proceed to have a wonderful day with her brothers and grandmother? Find out in Maya Was Grumpy, written and brilliantly illustrated by Courtney Pippin-Mathur. Kids will love reading or listening as someone reads aloud the funny verbs – grumped, slumped, snarled, glumped, grouched, thumped and grumbled – as Maya walks around. Pippin-Mathur uses a unique, wacky watercolor style in her artwork and has brilliantly designed Maya’s character to include a massive head of hair. The story is entertaining and both parents and children will be able to relate to Maya’s moody experiences.

From The Corner on Character 
Put an engaging tale that involves a grandmother and her granddaughter in my hands and I’m pretty much gonna like it; infuse some ‘feelings management’ so I can use it in my counseling, and I’m likely to fall in love. Meet Maya, who’s as feisty as a feline and Gramma, who’s as good as gold at managing Maya’s mane. Prepare to recognize Maya’s outrageous bed-head locks and her authentic expressions {She even rolls her eyes!} of grouchiness and disdain.   Then let the taming of the do tickle your funny bone as Gramma uses humor and fantasy to hook Maya and reel her in so they can send the grumpies packing and get to the park.  I love how this intergenerational duo dances together around and through Maya’s erratic emotions until she’s absolutely awake, positively back to her happier self and totally ready for some fun at their favorite stomping ground. I read it to a slightly-grumpy first grade girl with great success the other day. Her favorite part was turning the pages and watching the hair get smaller and more manageable, an excellent springboard for a discussion on what to do when unpleasant feelings choose us. If you know someone with the grumps, you’ll definitely want to check out this book.

From Jen Robinson’s Book Page
…a delightful picture book…. Young Maya wakes up one morning feeling grumpy, for no particular reason. Her Gramma coaxes Maya  out of this bad mood by proposing an increasingly ridiculous series of activities. Though Maya resists, she is eventually won over…. Each  page spread features a large-scale picture of Maya, her little twin brothers, and Gramma doing the proposed imaginary activity. A narrow panel to the right shows Maya’s real-world response. Grumpy Maya is always depicted with enormously wild hair, and with her equally grumpy stuffed lion. The imaginary Mayas, however, wear fancy outfits and big smiles. Imaginary Maya’s hair is big, but much more in control. It’s like the hair is a proxy for Maya’s mood – sometimes untameable and angry, and sometimes just bouncy.

Although in a novel one tires of seeing ornate text attributions like “Maya grumbled”, in this context, they work perfectly. Pippin-Mathur is able to introduce a bit of rich vocabulary, while keeping the book from being too repetitive. Active words like “squeezed” and “tickled” are shown in bold, making Maya Was Grumpy read-aloud-friendly.

But it’s the bold illustrations (rendered in pencil, ink, watercolor, and “a little digital magic”) that really stand out in Maya Was Grumpy. The backgrounds are use bold, bright colors. The imaginary scenes are filled with whimsy. And Maya’s red-gold hair is practically a character in its own right. This is a book that kids are going to LOVE looking through. There are two other things that I like about this book. First of all, although it’s about getting out of a bad mood, Maya Was Grumpy is not at all preachy. Maya’s Gramma stays calm, and appeals to Maya’s sense of humor, but she doesn’t judge or even try to understand the reasons for the bad mood. This book just accepts that sometimes people have bad days, for no particular reason. I like that.

Second, I like that Maya’s grandmother is her caregiver. The book doesn’t make clear whether Gramma just watches the kids during the day, or whether they live with her, but this vagueness makes this a nice book for nontraditional families. Plus it’s much more entertaining to see a grandmother happily sliding down the slide than a mother or father, I think.

Maya Was Grumpy is a top-notch picture book, one that I highly recommend. I’m not sure whether my three-year-old will grasp this idea of generalized bad moods just yet, but I think that Maya Was Grumpy should be a great fit for 5 and 6 year olds.

From Large Print Reviews
This is a delightful story that adults will enjoy reading to pre-readers, and which new readers will enjoy deciphering the host of ‘g’ words that grace the text, including grouchy, grumped, glumped, growled, grouched, grumbled, giggle, gramma, giraffe, and of course, grumpy. In addition, pre-readers will enjoy seeing how the colorful illustrations depict Maya’s grumpy mood – especially via the size of her hair. The grumpy Maya feels, the larger and untamed her hair appears. Once Maya loses her grumpy mood, her hair is at last brought under control.

Maya Was Grumpy is an enjoyable book to read, and can be easily used as a jumping off point for conversations with youngsters about moods and how they impact not only themselves, but also those around them. It is also a good book to help teach children how to help themselves work through their own bad moods, either on their own or with help. In this book, Maya is helped out of her grumpy mood by her grandmother’s wild and silly suggestions that make Maya imagine what it might be like to tickle a tarantula or whether or not it would be fun to give a bunch of baby elephants a bath.

Great all around fun, Maya Was Grumpy is perfect for bedtime readings or for reading on a rainy afternoon. So turn that frown upside down by reading Maya Was Grumpy! Best of all, for those who need or desire a large print text, Maya Was Grumpy is printed in an extra-large point font (about 20 point) that is easy on the eyes.

From NY Journal of Books
We’ve all had mornings where we got up on the wrong side of the bed, and that’s what happens in author/illustrator Courtney Pippin Mathur’s uplifting new picture book Maya Was Grumpy. The book begins with a title page illustration of Maya peeking from under her quilt with a look of utter disgust, and from there young readers can easily see what kind of day it’s going to be for Maya. That’s right, Maya is feeling grumpy. She’s in a “crispy, cranky, grumpy, grouchy mood,” only she doesn’t know why she’s grumpy, and this makes her even grumpier. Since part of the mystique of feeling grumpy is the irresistible urge to share that grumpiness with the world at large, Maya does just that: snarling at the cat, making faces at the birds in the window, and even grumbling at her baby brothers. They all ignore her . . . which makes her even grumpier. When her smiling Gramma ignores her grumpiness (as grandma’s tend to do), Maya struggles to hold on to her sourpuss look. But her frown is no match for Gramma’s fun suggestions, which include hunting for hippos, bathing baby elephants and even tickling tarantulas until they giggle. Before Maya knows it, a tingling, tickly, bubbly sort of something possibly a giggle—is working its way from her belly to her mouth and things suddenly don’t seem so bad after all. Maya Was Grumpy is laugh-out-loud funny and super-sweet. Ms. Pippin-Mathur manages to combine realism with fantasy by capturing the realistically sour expressions of a grumpy toddler and balancing them against a child’s boundless imagination. For example, there are adorable illustrations of Maya’s frowning face, downturned lips, and folded arms—all easily recognizable by the target audience of ages five and up. But there are fantasy illustrations, too: baby elephants in the bathtub, Maya and her family swinging on vines with monkeys, and Maya and her brothers tickling tarantulas with feathers. Perhaps the best drawings of all are the sidesplitting illustrations of Maya’s hair, a veritable explosion of frothy yellow curls that spreads everywhere and grows to incredible proportions at the turn of each page. This book is recommended as a laptime read or as a way to help toddlers identify, understand, and cope with those early morning “crispy, cranky, grumpy, grouchy moods.”

From the Puget Sound Council for the Review of Children’s Media
Maya doesn’t know why, but she’s in a bad mood. She doesn’t want to do any of her normal things, just share her bad mood with the cat, the birds and her baby brothers. When she tries to share it with Gramma, she’s met her match. Gramma assesses the situation and comes up with one silly scenario after another that Maya will not be able to partake in due to her bad mood. Ultimately Maya progresses from rolling her eyes to a tingling belly until finally she can’t contain the giggle that escapes after she envisions swinging with monkeys with Gramma. Her bad mood cured as evidenced by her now under control bright red hair, they go off for a pleasant day in search of all the imagined creatures. This is a heart-warming family story with an understanding and clever grandmother. Great word choice and bright, colorful, engaging illustrations will appeal to the younger audience.

…This lively book turns into a battle between silliness and the grumps — and we know what’s going to come out on top! The charming watercolor illustrations display the hugeness of Maya’s grumpy attitude in her out-of-control mop of curls. Each page offers something new to see and imagine. And the vivid colors definitely captivate. The storyline of wise Gramma winning over a cranky little girl… has a kind of cozy familiarity that makes it appealing…. overall, a cozy fun book with plenty of bounce.”

From Bookfoolery Blog
…Highly recommended – Hilarious and perfect to read on a cranky day.  Gorgeous, bright, funny illustrations, a great story and a perfect conclusion made Maya was Grumpy a personal favorite….

From Horn Book Reviews
When Maya wakes up in a “crispy, cranky, grumpy, grouchy mood,” she snarls at everyone. Grandma laments that they will have to cancel plans to hunt hippos and tickle tarantulas, eventually getting Maya to giggle at these far-out plans. …brightly colored watercolors [show that] Maya’s hair grows wilder the crosser she gets.

From Words By Mom
…I’m not sure who enjoyed or could relate to this book more, my daughter or me.  Such a funny twist on the bad-mood blues and tantrums that girls (and yes, boys) sometimes have. Maya is a grumpy force to be reckoned with…good thing that Gramma knows how to handle this mood… Not even Maya’s wild hair or “crispy, cranky, grumpy, grouchy” mood is untameable for Gramma. Maya tries to spread her mood to those around her…her brothers, the birds and even the cat but nobody would pay any attention. The illustrations, while very animated and fun, are so wonderful and really serve to enrich the text.  Pay attention to Maya’s hair, and how it’s illustrated to represent her mood.  Very clever!  Once her monster mood has been tamed, so is her hair. A fun spin on a bad mood and a great way to shake it!

From Grandma Ideas
Colorful. Rich. Bright. Cute. Beautiful. Magnificent. Resplendent. Fun. Humorous. Clever. Outstanding — and a whole slew of other similar adjectives . . .Courtney Pippin-Mathur wrote and illustrated this delightful book. So talented! Her watercolor pictures are a kaleidoscope of swirling color. The details in the book are charming. Pay close attention to the teeth in this book . . . especially the spiders’ teeth — and to Grandma’s bug-out eyes. (For some reason, Grandma’s eyes tickle my funny bone  . . . ) This book captured my heart. I’m sure that it will capture the hearts of your grandchildren. And, you know, in the event that one of your grandchildren is ever grumpy (but I’m SURE that would never happen because your grandchildren are absolutely positively perfect, right?) you could use this book to help your grandchild get rid of the grumpies. Two thumbs up, to the author/illustrator!!

From Mommy Secrets
I let my kids review this whimsical and creative book – Maya was Grumpy:
Brendan, age 8 – It is awesome!  It’s very funny and it has good drawings with great colors.  My favorite part of the book was the playground scene when Maya and her Gramma were swinging with the monkeys, sliding down giraffe’s necks…  I wish my Gramma could come to see me to get me out of my grumpy moods.

Anna Kate, age 6 – I love Maya’s long crazy hair, the cute little birds and the playground page.  It’s very creative!

The kids recommend this book for girls and boys ages 1-20 (though mom suggests 4 -10).  They also suggest this as a resource for counselors and parents to talk with their kids about feelings.

From The Reading Tub
Summary: Maya woke up grumpy. Not just grumpy but crispy, crunchy, salty, bad-mood grumpy. She and her lion try to share her bad  mood with the cat, with her brothers, and with her Grandma. But how can she be down when there are elephants to bathe, tarantulas to  tickle, monkeys to hang with, and hippos to hunt? This story of exaggerated events shows kids that being grumpy is normal – but not  permanent!

From Jarrett J. Krosoczka, author/illustrator of 18 kids’ books
In the Kroso house we have family story time, then our youngest goes to bed and our oldest gets to select another book to be read. Tonight BOTH choices were MAYA WAS GRUMPY by Courtney Pippin-Mathur! Congratulations on such a well-received book, Courtney!”

Featured in How Do You Feel Today? Great Books about Emotions 
“Filled with bright colors and amusing details, the frothy mixed-media artwork makes Maya’s bearishness entertainingly bearable and the satisfying resolution all the sweeter.”

About the Creator

pippen mathur, courtney, emotions, multi-generational, imagination, reverse psychology, play, understanding, grumpiness, grouchiness, moodiness, moods, humor, playground, grandmother, emotional control, mad, optimism, optimistic outlook, validating, fairness, caring, maya was grumpyCourtney Pippin-Mathur is the author and illustrator of Maya Was Grumpy. Courtney discovered her love for drawing by re-creating the characters from her favorite animated movies. After graduating with a Studio Art degree, she got married, had a baby, and moved to the East Coast. Since then, she has honed her wacky, vivid watercolor style, taught a few art classes, sold some paintings, and had twin boys to keep their sister company. Maya Was Grumpy, Courtney’s first picture book, was followed by Dragon’s Rule, Princesses Drool! She lives in Alexandria, VA.
You can find out more about Courtney and her work on her website

Book Details

ISBN: HC 9781936261130  ePDF 9781936261680  ePUB 9781936261697  KF8 9781936261703
Print Length: 32 Full Color Pages
Publication Date: May 2013
Age Group: 4-8
Lexile Measure: 790L
Word Count: 381
Foreign Edition: Chinese

emotions, multi-generational, imagination, reverse psychology, play, understanding, grumpiness, grouchiness, moodiness, moods, humor, playground, grandmother, emotional control, mad, optimism, optimistic outlook, validating, fairness, caring, maya was grumpy, chinese

Activity Guides & More

THEMES: emotions, anger, multi-generational, imagination, reverse psychology

Ideas for Post Reading Discussion:

Why do you think Maya was in such a bad mood?
What do you think finally got her to snap out of her bad mood?
How do you thing everyone else reacted when Maya tried to spread her bad mood?
Do you ever feel like Maya?
What do you do when you’re in a bad mood?  Do you try to snap out of it? How?
What do you think you should do next time you wake up in a bad mood?

Leveling Information

Lexile Measurements provided by Metametrics. Guided Reading Levels provided by Marla Conn using Fountas and Pinnel Guided Reading Text Characteristics.

Lexile Display: AD650L

Word Count: 311

MSL: 9.424

MLF: 3.48

Decoding Display: High

Semantic Display: High

Syntactic Display: Very High

Structure Display: Very High 

Guided Reading Level: K

Grade Level Equivalent: 2

Interest Level by Grade: Pre-K-4

Educational Description: Picture book, realistic fiction

SEL – Social Emotional Learning: positive affirmation, dealing with feelings

Story Elements: setting, plot and character development, young girl main character, Maya and her grandma, problem and solution, language: synonyms, words with similar denotations, alliteration, humorous tone, illustrations enhance meaning and tone

Comprehension Strategies: identify cause and effect relationships, changes from beginning to end of the story, sequence of events, and central message, make text-to-self connections

Themes: we all get in a bad mood sometimes, love, family, feelings