Stick with the old standby: Roger Hargreaves’ Mr. Happy (1980).

MR. HAPPY AND MISS GRIMM

Attitude rubs off in this peculiar German import first published as Herr Glück & Frau Unglück.

When the perennially cheerful Mr. Happy moves into the cottage next door to No. 13, which squats under an ever present black cloud, Miss Grimm is not at all pleased. She looks down her long, sharp nose at all that her new neighbor does, from planting a garden to his morning and evening rituals: “Every morning Mr. Happy greeted the sun, / every evening the moon and the stars.” In the latter illustration, Mr. Happy climbs a ladder extending from a rooftop hatch with a match to light the moon’s lantern; Miss Grimm pokes out a similar roof hatch swatting the moon with her broom. Though Mr. Happy’s attempt to greet Miss Grimm ends with a door slammed in his face, the black-clad, melancholy woman does come around eventually, the cheerful garden next door bringing about an amazing transformation (in more ways than one) that seems to happen all too quickly for a satisfactory ending. Strasser’s mixed-media, monoprint, crayon, and digital collage illustrations mix muted jewel tones with interesting textures, and the dichotomy between the two houses is visually effective. While Schneider seems to be going for a power-of-nature-to-change-lives sort of message, children may miss it altogether.

Stick with the old standby: Roger Hargreaves’ Mr. Happy (1980). (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3198-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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THIS BOOK IS GRAY

A gray character tries to write an all-gray book.

The six primary and secondary colors are building a rainbow, each contributing the hue of their own body, and Gray feels forlorn and left out because rainbows contain no gray. So Gray—who, like the other characters, has a solid, triangular body, a doodle-style face, and stick limbs—sets off alone to create “the GRAYest book ever.” His book inside a book shows a peaceful gray cliff house near a gray sea with gentle whitecaps; his three gray characters—hippo, wolf, kitten—wait for their arc to begin. But then the primaries arrive and call the gray scene “dismal, bleak, and gloomy.” The secondaries show up too, and soon everyone’s overrunning Gray’s creation. When Gray refuses to let White and Black participate, astute readers will note the flaw: White and black (the colors) had already been included in the early all-gray spreads. Ironically, Gray’s book within a book displays calm, passable art while the metabook’s unsubtle illustrations and sloppy design make for cramped and crowded pages that are too busy to hold visual focus. The speech-bubble dialogue’s snappy enough (Blue calls people “dude,” and there are puns). A convoluted moral muddles the core artistic question—whether a whole book can be gray—and instead highlights a trite message about working together.

Low grade. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5420-4340-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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A straightforward, effective approach to helping children cope with one of life’s commonplace yet emotionally fraught...

WHAT DO YOU DO WITH A PROBLEM?

A child struggles with the worry and anxiety that come with an unexpected problem.

In a wonderful balance of text and pictures, the team responsible for What Do You Do With an Idea (2014) returns with another book inspiring children to feel good about themselves. A child frets about a problem that won’t go away: “I wished it would just disappear. I tried everything I could to hide from it. I even found ways to disguise myself. But it still found me.” The spare, direct narrative is accompanied by soft gray illustrations in pencil and watercolor. The sepia-toned figure of the child is set apart from the background and surrounded by lots of white space, visually isolating the problem, which is depicted as a purple storm cloud looming overhead. Color is added bit by bit as the storm cloud grows and its color becomes more saturated. With a backpack and umbrella, the child tries to escape the problem while the storm swirls, awash with compass points scattered across the pages. The pages brighten into splashes of yellow as the child decides to tackle the problem head-on and finds that it holds promise for unlooked-for opportunity.

A straightforward, effective approach to helping children cope with one of life’s commonplace yet emotionally fraught situations, this belongs on the shelf alongside Molly Bang’s Sophie books. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-943-20000-9

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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