The Happiness of a Dog with a Ball in its Mouth

Enchanted Lion. Mar. 2021. 56p. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781592703517.
PreS-Gr 1–A meditation on keeping things in perspective. The simple, repetitive text frames a day with waking and sleeping but does not follow a linear story arc or particular characters through the middle. Rather, it shows different scenarios with children and animals experiencing a wide array of negative and neutral emotions, described with outstanding vocabulary choices (patience, nervousness, indignity, reluctance). Then Handy contrasts them with the happiness that occurs when one looks on the brighter side. In addition to the titular example, other scenarios include “the worry of looking. The happiness of finding” as a child loses her parent in a crowd, as well as “the divide of mine. The happiness of ours” as twins share a treat. Yum makes impeccable images, carefully and uncomplicatedly, with pencil and watercolor, bringing each moment to life, always adding a touch of humor. Children and families will laugh at “the effort of holding it in. The happiness of letting it go,” with an image of a boy standing at the toilet. All of the scenarios, from enduring a fall and a scrape to getting out of the cold bath into a warm towel to starting a new school and then making friends, are relatable to children even from a young age.
VERDICT A sweet, never sentimental book about finding happiness in small places, and perfect for lap-reading or story times.

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