About the Holiday
In 2011, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution stating that happiness is a “fundamental human goal” and called for a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes the happiness and well-being on all peoples.” March 20 was chosen by all 193 United Nations member states as the day to remember and honor this goal. The holiday was first celebrated in 2013.
Today you get a free pass to spend the day doing what makes you and others happy—so enjoy! If you’d like to learn more about the holiday visit the International Day of Happiness organization.
Written by Nancy Tupper Ling | Illustrated by Alina Chau
This quiet, thoughtful picture book tells the story of a family’s move from China to America in a series of unrhymed verses that reveal the experience honestly from alternating viewpoints of a brother, Jake, and his sister, Gracie. Each page is dedicated to one or the other sibling with the boy’s poems written in blue and the girl’s in purple. In several poems the children interact with each other, the blue and purple lines acting as dialog tags.
In the first poem, The Move, Gracie stand on her doorstep surrounded by boxes and suitcases and thinks, “I won’t go! / I won’t move / away / from our city house / by the trolley tracks….” Jake is already imagining his new room in the second poem,Train. After considering different décor, he decides what he really wants is something familiar, something outside—“just one long train / that rocks and wobbles / my bed each night. /I can’t fall asleep until the train passes by.”
The siblings are each given a happiness box by their Nai Nai inGrandmother, who wisely challenges her grandchildren to “Find four treasures each, / leading from this home / to your new.” The search is taken up in the next poems—Treasure, Lucky, and Leaf—in which the kids find objects for their happiness boxes. The train and treasures for the happiness boxes are threads that unite many of the poems and the children’s experiences.
In keeping with the long hours of travel from China to the United States, the next 6 poems chronicle the brother and sister’s experience in the airport, waiting for their plane, and during the flight.
In Here the children wake up to see their new city far below them and wonder, “can I found our house / from the sky?” Marble andSadness juxtapose Jake’s happiness at finding a treasure for his box with the apprehension of Gracie.
At last the family reaches their new home by taxi. Gracie seems only to see the “piles of snow,” but Jake likes the “windy roads, lots of trees, and the curvy driveway.” In Explore Gracie and Jake walk around the countryside, and while Gracie still determines that she won’t like it, Jake hears a train and is happy. My Roomand Dinner see the kids settling in, with a photograph of the family they’ve left behind accompanying them on the table while they eat. In A Surprise, Gracie finds that her grandmother is still with her through a special scarf, and Paints resolves the move as Jake and Gracie paint their happiness boxes: Jake decorates his with a dragon and a train, while Gracie depicts her and her brother walking in the snow and “they look very, / very / happy.”
While Double Happiness tells the story of a family’s distant move, Nancy Tupper Ling’s gentle verses are appropriate for any situation involving change or uncertainty. She reminds children that happiness can be found wherever they are and all around them if they look for it. The unrhymed poems flow as freely as thoughts, fears, and unguarded moments. As Gracie and Jake resolve their feeling, readers or listeners will also see that feelings of apprehension are common, and that happiness is waiting for them.
Alina Chau’s soft, lovely watercolor illustrations are beautiful representations of Gracie and Jake’s move from the familiar surroundings of their home in China to a new home in a snowy countryside. The children’s emotions resonate as they alternate between sadness and happiness and between concrete places and their own imagination.
Ages 5 – 8
Chronicle Books, 2015 | ISBN 978-1452129181
International Day of Happiness Activity
Happiness is all around you! Grab one or more friends to play a game that reveals what things make you happy. Here are two ways to play:
- Like the “Geography” game: the first player names something that makes them happy, the next player must think of something that starts with the last letter of the word the previous player said. The game continues with each player continuing the pattern. Players drop out as they cannot think of a word. The last player left is
- Within a certain time limit (depending on age), players must think of something that makes them happy. Players drop out if they cannot think of a word within the time limit. The last player left is the winner.