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MAKING HAPPY by Sheetal Sheth


by Sheetal Sheth ; illustrated by Khoa Le

Pub Date: Sept. 20th, 2022
ISBN: 978-1-64686-622-9
Publisher: Barefoot Books

All Leila wants is for her family to go back to normal.

But Mama’s wigs and scarves are as present as the sickness that surrounds her. Worse, nothing Leila does seems to make it go away, kind of like the sadness and anxiety that sit like an ache in her stomach. But Dad has an idea “to make some happy”—by making a big mess and dancing around the room—and Leila finds new ways of dealing with her jumbled-up feelings. Exploring the complexities that children grapple with when faced with illness in the family, this picture book is ultimately about finding little pockets of happiness. The book could help create a space to talk about illness with children while offering hope in the form of togetherness and empathy. Although the metaphors in the book feel unwieldy at times, the art more than compensates for it. Patterns twist and turn alongside Leila’s feelings, weaving a stunning tapestry that finally blossoms onto the pages as Leila finds small moments of joy and understanding amid sadness. The use of color provides subtle cues to the transformation that Leila undergoes. In an author’s note, Sheth states that she wrote the book while going through chemotherapy; in an illustrator’s note, Le explains that with each book, she works digitally with traditional media and photography and attempts to “use fabrics related to the author’s heritage.” Leila and her family are brown-skinned. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A beautifully rendered story about courage in the face of turmoil.

(Picture book. 5-8)