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NOT A SMILEY GUY by Polly Horvath


by Polly Horvath ; illustrated by Boris Kulikov

Pub Date: April 2nd, 2024
ISBN: 9780823449873
Publisher: Margaret Ferguson/Holiday House

You can be happy, even if your face doesn’t show it.

As a newborn, Ernest enjoys his parents’ smiles, and he realizes he has a nice family. As he gets older, he discovers many more smilers among relatives and neighbors. He wishes he could also meet some elephants, but, as he notes, “You can’t have everything.” The smilers want him to smile, too, but contorting his face like that isn’t Ernest’s thing. He tries it once, but after that—nah. He does other things his parents like: He learns to walk, talk, and eat neatly; he can even put on his snowsuit by himself. Yet they still expect grins. They take him on outings to stimulate smiles, but nothing works. Ernest’s parents finally capitulate and get him his longed-for elephant, named Marcia, whom he brings to kindergarten for show and tell. Walking home afterward, Ernest tells his parents that he is a happy child, just not a smiley one—which makes them happy. This is an offbeat story, but it’s not just about smiling per se. Rather, it sends reassuring messages: It’s OK to be who you are, and others should accept you for being yourself. The gouache-and-watercolor illustrations are lively and comical and will elicit chuckles. Ernest and his family are light-skinned; background characters are diverse.

Children will smile more than once while reading this quirky tale—even if its protagonist probably wouldn’t.

(Picture book. 5-8)