A series of minor disappointments leads Bernice to make a greedy grab at a friend’s birthday party which in turn spurs an unexpected change of heart.
Harrison’s acrylic paintings, a mix of double-page spreads, single pages, and occasional vignettes, depict a group of anthropomorphic animals celebrating in a forest setting. Old-fashioned outfits and activities contrast pleasingly with characters that are simultaneously cartoony and realistic in appearance and visually developed with touches of sly humor. Bernice’s increasing frustration shows in both her face and body language as she gets a plain piece of cake (no frosting rose), has to settle for warm prune-grapefruit soda, and misses out on the candy from a prematurely punctured piñata. In her determination to pluck some pleasure from the day she snatches the whole bunch of balloons and suddenly floats up into the sky. The change of scene allows her to quickly, if not entirely believably, recognize how petty her problems are. Sharing the balloons enables her to land safely while improving the moods of assorted quirky characters including a glum rain cloud, a crotchety squirrel, and a sad mother bluebird.
While the final twist is a bit heavy-handed, overall, the emotional honesty, simple, understated text, and entertaining visual humor combine to create an appealing take on a problem that occasionally plagues us all, whether child, adult, or grumpy cat. (Picture book. 3-6)