As the song goes: “Gray skies are gonna clear up / Put on a happy face!”
With an assist from Blankson, the author of the positive psychology guide The Happiness Advantage (2010) takes his message to children in this newly illustrated reissue of the 2012 title Ripple’s Effect, originally illustrated by Cecilia Rebora. A smiley dolphin named Ripple, new to the aquarium, is eager to make friends. Alas, she discovers that the other sea creatures live in fear of Snark, a bullying shark. Undeterred, Ripple teaches everyone a game in which players must stare into another’s face for seven seconds without smiling. Naturally, this elicits belly laughs among the aquarium’s denizens. When Snark investigates the newfound attitude of the formerly frightened, he’s pulled into the game, and thanks to his inevitable smile, all bullying is henceforth forgotten. Whether readers believe Ripple’s declarations that happiness is a choice (thereby circumventing the existence of depression and mental illness) is rather beside the point. Children are meant to glean from this book methods that help increase their own happiness, illuminated by the book’s backmatter. Alas, the story eschews practical methods of handling bullying. Nor, for that matter, does it confront the idea that sometimes a bully can experience great happiness…from the misery of others. Colorful, peppy art perfectly plays up the book’s un-nuanced can-do attitude.
Does this book have what it takes to help kids in any practical way? Go fish. (Picture book. 4-7)