October 4 – Celebrating the Book Birthday of How to Draw a Happy Cat

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Thank you to Hippo Park and Deborah Sloan for sharing a copy of How to Draw a Happy Cat with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

How to Draw a Happy Cat

Written by Ethan T. Berlin | Illustrated by Jimbo Matison

 

As the book opens, an unseen art teacher enthusiastically instructs kids in creating a cat. And not just any cat, but one that will be smiling at the end: “Learning how to draw a happy cat is fun and easy!” The narrator lays out clear instructions and gives an example of how the initial shape and each new addition should look. By the end of the first page spread, kids have a striped yellow cat with eyes, nose, and violet ears but no…mouth. On the page turn, the narrator prompts kids to add a smile. But wait! That smile doesn’t last long. On the next page she’s frowning. “What do you think she wants?” the instructor asks.

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Image copyright Jimbo Matison, 2022, text copyright Ethan T. Berlin, 2022. Courtesy of Hippo Park.

The narrator makes some suggestions: “…a cool T-shirt, …a stuffy,” and “Oh, I know—a skateboard!” These items too are sketched out as examples. And, yeah! The cat is “totally happy now!” This happy cat has some moves on the skateboard too. Her wide smile just shows how happy she is. Even the unicorn on her T-shirt is grinning. But the stuffy? He’s looking a little glum and it brings down the whole vibe. Happy Cat is no longer happy.

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Image copyright Jimbo Matison, 2022, text copyright Ethan T. Berlin, 2022. Courtesy of Hippo Park.

The instructor seems to know what’s needed and suggests readers “draw her some friends! And a ramp!” Now that’s more like it! A four-legged alien-type guy, a chicken, and a dog make very happy friends. So they’re soaring into the air off the ramp on their skateboards and… Oh no! You know—what goes up must come down. Suddenly, Cat is afraid. Down, down they begin to fall. What can readers do?

Quick as you can say “airplane,” readers can help a winged and propellered rescue appear. Phew! Now they’re all happy again. Turns out, though, that skateboarding on a plane whips up quite an appetite, and now Cat is hungry. How can readers help? Well, wouldn’t a slice of pizza taste delicious? Kids learn how to draw a pizzeria and a cheesy slice, but delivery? That could be a problem. 

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Image copyright Jimbo Matison, 2022, text copyright Ethan T. Berlin, 2022. Courtesy of Hippo Park.

Cat has an idea, and while it works… it kinda, also…doesn’t. Now Cat and her friends are falling once again. Luckily readers are right there to remedy the situation, and all turns out great. So great that Cat and her friends want to celebrate. They can’t do it without decorations, music, entertainment, and some really cool hats, though, so it’s up to readers to create the most awesome party ever to “draw a happy cat!”

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Image copyright Jimbo Matison, 2022, text copyright Ethan T. Berlin, 2022. Courtesy of Hippo Park.

Starting out with a straightforward drawing lesson, Ethan T. Berlin and Jimbo Matison soon raise the stakes for readers by putting them in charge of pleasing this mercurial cat. Berlin’s enthusiastic narrator makes helpful suggestions throughout the story that prompt kids to use their natural creativity to make Cat happy while Matison actually teaches them how an artist or cartoonist puts together shapes to draw a vast array of characters, objects, moods, and action.

On top of this, Berlin’s rollercoaster story will have kids giggling on every page, and well-placed questions get them thinking about how happiness can turn to sadness or dissatisfaction (for Cat as well as themselves) in the blink of an eye (or the turn of a page) and how those moments can be turned around or amended. The story’s last line gives readers an opportunity to start all over again—or, now that they’ve got the skills, even come up with their own story to write and illustrate.

Matison’s cartoon characters (sometimes charmingly colored outside the lines) are energetic and optimistic, reveling in new playthings, friends, and experiences. Kids will love watching for Chicken’s reactions, one funny placement of a pizza slice, and a few mishaps that foreshadow the book’s cyclical ending. Colorful type highlights strong emotions, especially when Cat is happy.

Sure to make kids laugh and get excited about writing and drawing as well as providing an organic way to talk about emotions and ways to create your own happiness, How to Draw a Happy Cat makes a terrific addition to home bookshelves as a favorite story time read and go-to book for impromptu drawing fun. The book is highly recommended for school and public library collections, where it will certainly enjoy frequent rotation and its multiple layers inspire participatory programs.

Ages 4 – 8 

Hippo Park, 2022 | ISBN 978-1662640049

Discover more about Ethan T. Berlin and his books, TV shows, and other funny stuff on his website.

To learn more about Jimbo Matison, his books, design work, and TV shows, visit his website.

Laugh—or commiserate—along with this How to Draw a Happy Cat book trailer! 

How to Draw a Happy Cat Book Birthday Activity

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Pizza Party Board Game and Drawing Kit

 

Can you make Cat and her friends happy by getting them to the pizza party? Just pick your character, draw numbers to move around the board—and have some fun on the way! Play the game with your friends and then learn how to draw a happy chicken by downloading the How to Draw a Happy Cat Activity Kit from Hippo Park!

How to Draw a Happy Cat Activity Kit

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You can find How to Draw a Happy Cat at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

January 11 – Step in a Puddle and Splash Your Friends Day

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About the Holiday

Melting snow or winter rains can cause plenty of opportunities to take part in today’s holiday! Jumping in puddles isn’t just for kids, either. Come on! You know you want to! So pull on those boots, find a puddle, and…jump!

Puddle

By Hyewon Yum

 

A little boy stands in the middle of the room with his arms folded firmly in front of him. “I hate rainy days!” he says. He flops onto a chair—half on, half off—and bemoans the weather. He “can’t go to the playground,” “can’t play soccer,” can’t ride his bike. His mom invites her grumpy boy to draw with her, but he’s so grumpy that he tells her he’s “never going to draw!” That’s okay, Mom says. She can draw without him.

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Copyright Hyewon Yum, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

In a moment Mom sings out, “Ta-da! It’s an umbrella.” Intrigued just a little, the boy comes over to the desk and takes a peek. He recognizes his own blue umbrella. The little boy thinks something is missing, though, and asks if his mom can draw him holding it. Mom obliges and draws a yellow-slickered little boy holding the blue umbrella over his head.

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Copyright Hyewon Yum, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

But there’s still something missing. The boy doesn’t want to stand there all alone. Where’s his mom? Where’s Billy? The boy’s mom isn’t so sure she can draw a dog, but Billy comes out just fine with a feathery tail and shaggy ears. Mom looks very stylish in her checkered raincoat and boots too. There’s just one problem—there’s no rain.

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Copyright Hyewon Yum, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

The little boy picks up the crayon and draws blue slanting lines all around. “I’m really good at this,” he says. More and more rain fills the page, and Mom and her son hold their umbrellas in front of them as they trudge on. Pretty soon, Mom points to something in the path ahead. “It’s a puddle!” the boy exclaims. Before Mom can stop him, he’s ditched the umbrella and is running for the puddle.

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Copyright Hyewon Yum, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

With one leap, he’s in the middle of it, stomping and splashing. Waves of water splatter everywhere, spraying Mom and Billy. “I told you not to go in there,” Mom says. “Now you’re all wet and I am too.” But her son reassures her that it’s okay; after all, it’s just a picture. Billy wants in on the fun and jumps in, bounding and shaking and showering water everywhere. Now it’s the little boy’s turn to be perturbed. “It’s just a picture,” his mom reminds him.

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Copyright Hyewon Yum, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

The drawing makes the boy want to have some real fun. “Why not?” agrees his mom. So they put on their raincoats and rain boots and grab their umbrellas and head out. Even Billy has his own orange cape. What do they see on the sidewalk not far ahead? A puddle—with room for all!

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Copyright Hyewon Yum, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Hyewon Yum’s clever story-within-a-story intrigues on many levels. With ingenuity, the mom pulls her son out of his gray-weather funk by offering an understated yet creative lure that can’t fail to reel him in. Once invested in the drawing, the boy sees the possibilities for real play and turns the once “nothing to do” day into an afternoon of fun. The dialog between mother and son that carries the story is natural and honest, propelling the plot from drawing to outside exploration.

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Copyright Hyewon Yum, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Yum’s engaging illustrations likewise hook readers as the more realistic images of the mom and son, living room, desk with drawing pad, and even the artist’s hand disappear from the pages as rain pelts the sketched mom, boy and Billy. Children will become so fully engrossed in the made-up story that it seems as if the trio are already out in the rain. When life then imitates art, readers will be wishing for their own puddles to jump in.

Puddle proves that the power of art and storytelling can change perceptions, create new realities, and make for a whole lot of fun! The book would be a terrific addition to home bookshelves and classrooms for story times, creative moments, and—of course—rainy days.

Ages 4 – 7

Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2017 | ISBN  978-0374316952

Discover more about Hyewon Yum, her books, and her art on her website.

Step in a Puddle and Splash Your Friends Day Activity

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Rainy Day Mix Up

 

These matching umbrellas and raincoats have gotten mixed up. Can you pair them up again to have fun in the rain in this printable Rainy Day Mix Up Puzzle? How will you match them?

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You can find Puddle at these booksellers 

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review