The Happiness of a Dog With a Ball in Its Mouth by Bruce Handy, illustrated by Hyewon Yum

    The Happiness of a Dog With a Ball in Its Mouth by Bruce Handy, illustrated by Hyewon Yum, Enchanted Lion Books, 9781592703517, 2021 

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Picture book

What did you like about the book?  This is a lovely book and would be a good prompt for talking about feelings. Illustrations showing a sad face and a corresponding illustration in which the sadness has dissipated. It could become monotonous, but the illustrations are very sweet and the book design mixes up double page spreads with gate-hinged pages that open up to reveal hidden happiness.  For example, a basic left/right page shows “The indignity of a cut” juxtaposed with “The happiness of a scab.” Or “The fear of leaping” (just a pair of feet on the end of the diving board) followed by “The happiness of having leapt” as a boy launches himself into the pool. A dramatic reveal comes when “The sameness of sameness” (a grey sky and landscape) opens fully to reveal a girl and her dog smiling at snowfall (“The happiness of change”).  The artist has used soft, colored pencil strokes combined with watercolor and the quietness of the medium suits the search for balance. She shows children of all races getting lost/being found, feeling left out/making a new friend and agonizing over ice cream flavors/making a decision.

Anything you didn’t like about it? There’s no story here or any recurring characters, but it suits the approach.

To whom would you recommend this book?  This would be a good book for SEL discussions, either in a family setting or at school. It belongs on the same shelf as Happiness is a Warm Puppy by Charles Schulz and A Hole is to Dig by Ruth Krauss.

Who should buy this book? Elementary and public schools

Where would you shelve it? Picture books or possibly in an SEL or parenting section

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: March 25, 2021

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