Williams’ song, familiar to many children from the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack, is set to consonantly upbeat images.
As photographed by Pratt and digitally collaged by Smith, a bevy of smiling, multiethnic tots cavort to the lyrics, wielding a variety of props made from tinfoil and cardboard for a pleasingly preschool-classroom feel. Their enthusiasm and all-around cuteness are the book’s high point. As often happens when pop songs are stripped of instrumentation and vocals and set in type, the lyrics are banal, frequently nonsensical: “With the air like I DON’T CARE, / baby, by the way.” Pratt and Smith valiantly pose three children in a kite-flying scene to accompany this text, but that doesn’t help give the words any real meaning. Presumably in an attempt to lend the text a visual energy that it has lost in the translation into print, it cavorts across the page with many words and phrases set in uppercase. This may confuse those reading along with the song, as the implied textual emphases don’t always sync with it. The setting of the text is particularly unfortunate in the final double-page spread: “HAPPY! Bring me down, can’t nothing / HAPPY! Bring me down.” The two iterations of “HAPPY!” are voiced by backup singers in the song, but laid out on the page with Williams’ vocals, they are mystifying. An author’s note exhorts readers to become “Happy Helpers.”
Yet another vapid celebrity picture book. (Picture book. 3-5)