Not a Smiley Guy

Holiday House/Margaret Ferguson. Apr. 2024. 32p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780823449873.
PreS-Gr 2–Ernest was born into an amazing family in a great home. “Nice people, he thought. What a good family to be born into. The only thing that would make it better would be some elephants.” Very quickly, Ernest discovers that he does not enjoy smiling, but he is still very happy. His parents, in their efforts to make him smile, take him to fairs and even purchase an elephant, all to no avail. Ernest insists that he can be happy without smiling, expressing his dislike for the act. Despite this, his parents reassure him of their love, while the elephant simply requests a larger bed. The droll narration maintains an ideal balance; readers will be convinced of Ernest’s sincerity and he’s a very pleasant person. Thanks to his parents, he discovers that the world is full of neat stuff—ice cream parlors, the seaside, roller derby—as well as people who are kind of loud and who overdo it on smiling. Children will delight in the illustrations and the challenge of spotting hidden elephants, although the deeper message may be too complex for them to grasp fully. Books like Yangsook Choi’s The Name Jar and David Shannon’s A Bad Case of Stripes also offer explorations of individuality; why not have a triple-header story hour?
VERDICT A charming book, recommended for larger library collections.

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