Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Kirkus review


Happiness offsets harder feelings.

A child with brown skin and puffy brown hair lies asleep. “The slowness of two eyes opening,” reads the text; eyes open, the child rises in cheerful daylight to greetings from two dogs and “the happiness of a new day.” Handy’s exploration of emotions that proceed into happiness is a grab bag. It’s nonlinear (can be opened anywhere); the multiracial cast of characters hold no especial connections with each other; and the prehappiness modes vary between moods and situations. “The fear of leaping. / The happiness of having leapt”—feet on a diving board, then a child excitedly suspended midair above the pool—juxtaposes negative and positive feelings in a fairly traditional manner. Readers will thrill to a spread about peeing and another about the critical difference between hearing no and saying no. However, stillness, distance, and self-sufficiency are pretty neutral; when a bird experiences “The stillness of a perch. / The happiness of flight,” the stillness doesn’t seem inferior, creating a question—what do these juxtapositions mean? Enter Yum’s watercolor-and–colored-pencil illustrations, airy and light, with soft pencil shadings everywhere for comfort. “The self-sufficiency of a cat in the morning. / The happiness of a cat in the afternoon” is mystifying as a pairing of opposites, but Yum’s pale sunlight and cooling shadows—first on a windowsill, then spilling over the blissful cat on the floor—override any conceptual confusion with beauty.

A contemplative exploration, with illustrations that carry readers past puzzlement. (Picture book. 3-6)

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