Wanting to become the “happiest book ever,” a personified book enlists its friends’ help—but things go awry when a “frowny frog” doesn’t fit in, hilariously teaching the book (and readers) kindness and acceptance.
A benign happy face enthusiastically greets readers and asks them to help. With each spread, the cheery mood becomes more pronounced, the face more exuberant, and the author’s signature humor more in evidence. Cheerful, appealing characters blossom, cute and full of whimsy, many with labels that emphasize their silliness or absurdity. These minimalist images are perfectly juxtaposed to a photo of a dour-looking frog, whose seriousness pervades the book. Soon the once-upbeat face reveals an accusatory, even aggressive side, proving the ends don’t justify the means. But through its friends’ guidance, the book learns tolerance and understanding, allowing for true happiness and cheer. Shea masterfully uses a simple format to introduce a complicated idea: how to illustrate the subconscious thinking of a fictional character. On the right page is the face and its verbal self, represented by the text. On the left is the visual manifestation of its thoughts (with some spillover to the right). There are levels of sophistication to this well-designed artwork done in a primary four-color palette with white accents. The interactive components will have readers shaking and flipping—and most of all laughing—their ways through its pages.
A wonderful rethinking of the picture book as its own character. Wacky, zany, and downright fun. (Picture book. 5-8)