August 31 – It’s Happiness Happens Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Double Happiness by Nancy Tupper Ling Picture Book Review

About the Holiday

Summer is coming to a close and school is starting again. It’s a great time to reflect on the fun you’ve had in the warmer weather and all the memories that are about to be made as another year of activities, education, new friendships, and excitement unfolds. Happiness really does happen if you let it!

Double Happiness

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 sibling or the other with the Jake’s poems written in blue and Gracie’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 stands 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….” But Jake is more adventurous and in the second poem, Train, is already imagining his new room. 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.”

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Image copyright Alina Chau, 2015, courtesy of Chronicle Books

In Grandmother, the siblings are each given a happiness box by their Nai Nai, who wisely challenges her grandchildren to “Find four treasures each, / leading from this home / to your new.” Gracie takes this to heart, and readers see in Panda that even before leaving Nai Nai’s Gracie has added a favorite keepsake to her box: “Nai Nai’s panda sits / by the window / like always. / “I’ll miss you,” I say. / Nai Nai leans over me. / She places Panda / inside my box. / “He has a new home / now.”

Too soon moving day comes, and in Goodbye Gracie and Jake give hugs and kisses to beloved relatives. The search for items to fill Nai Nai’s boxes is taken up in the next three poems. In Treasure, Jake becomes a dragon keeping his “dragon eyes / wide open for stuff / along the way.” He is rewarded in Lucky, in which he discovers an old penny on the bus ride to the airport. In Leaf Gracie receives a surprising gift for her happiness box: “One stray leaf / flutters down / onto my box— / Eucalyptus! / If I had a koala I’d feed / her this minty meal all / day long— / the perfect treasure / to remind me of home.” 

In keeping with the long hours of travel from China to the United States, the next six poems chronicle the brother and sister’s experiences in the airport, waiting for their plane, and during the flight. Airport sees the children running, hopping, waiting, and navigating their way through the crowds of people to their gate. Dad is already tuckered out in Quiet, but Jake is wrangling to look for treasure: “’Huff puff. Puff huff.’” / Dragon blows fire. / Dragon stomps his feet. / “’Ssshhh, you’ll wake Daddy. / I giggle. / Gracie giggles. / “’Daddy can sleep / anywhere.’” Jake finally discovers gum in his backpack and creates a treasure. “I stretch it / and roll it / and ooze it / into one slinky snake / Sssssee, his penny pillow. / Sssssee, he’s kai xin— / so happy—in his brown box. / I’m tied with Gracie now— / two treasures each.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-double-happiness-discovering-the-woods

Image copyright Alina Chau, 2015, courtesy of Chronicle Books

Adventures at the airport continue in Cat and Wings, and as the plane takes off Gracie draws pictures of the day’s events in Picture. In Here the children wake up to see their new city far below them and wonder, “can I find our house / from the sky?” Marble and Sadness juxtapose Jake’s happiness at finding another treasure for his box with the apprehension of Gracie as the plane lands and the family makes its way into their new country.

At last in Home the family reaches their new house 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 Room and 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 in Paints Jake and Gracie accept the move as they paint their happiness boxes: Jake decorates his with a dragon and a train, while Gracie depicts herself and her brother walking in the snow and “they look very, / very / happy.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-double-happiness-coming-to-new-house

Image copyright Alina Chau, 2015, courtesy of Chronicle Books

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 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 the concrete places of Nai Nai’s house, the airport, and their new city and their own imaginations of dragons, drawings, and dreams.

Ages 5 – 8

Chronicle Books, 2015 | ISBN 978-1452129181

Discover more books for children and adults by Nancy Tupper Ling on her website!

View a gallery of artwork by Alina Chau and more on her website!

Happiness Happens Activity

CPB - Happiness typography

Happiness Is…Game

 

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:

  1. 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 the winner.
  2. Using a 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.

Picture Book Review

July 11 – World Population Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-p-is-for-passport

About the Holiday

In 1989 the Governing Council of the United Nations Development Program established this date as a time to focus on urgent population and humanitarian issues. Each year revolves around a different theme. This year the theme is “Investing in teenage girls.” Education, health, and safety issues for girls around the world is an emerging issue that demands serious attention.

P is for Passport: A World Alphabet

Written by Devin Scillian | Illustrated by nationally acclaimed artists

 

One of the best ways to learn about the world’s diverse population is to travel—either in person or through a great book. P is for Passport is your own personal guide to the myriad people, landmarks, animals, natural resources, modes of transportation, and other things that make up our world. Each letter of the alphabet introduces readers to a concept that begins with that letter (A for animals, B for breads, etc.). A short definition of the place, event, object, or idea is given on one page, and the facing page contains a poem that cleverly and lyrically describes it with examples from around the globe.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-p-is-for-passport-currency

Image copyright K.L. Darnell, courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press

After getting the right Currency with the letter C and filling K’s Knapsack, armchair travelers will traverse the world’s varied terrain. E takes them to the “epic elevation” of “mighty Mount Everest”; for the letter I they will sail to the Emerald Isle of Ireland, the Isles of Greece, and the Isle of Skye as well as to chilly Greenland, warm Tahiti, and green Iceland; J will find them in the densest jungles; of course, “O is for Oceans that “roll and roar and sway”; and D is for deserts:

“We’re in Dakar and it’s dreadfully dry, whipped by the sand in the breeze. / Or it’s a day in Death Valley, dangerously hot at 120 degrees. / A dazzling sun dries out the Gobi, a harsh and punishing land. / The largest on earth is called the Sahara, nine million miles of sand….”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-p-is-for-passport-bread

Image copyright Gary Palmer, courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press

By now readers will be hungry, so B provides buttery buns, bagels, baguettes, biscuits, and more. Feel like something else? Then flip to G for Grain found in pasta, porridge, dumplings, ramen, couscous, wheat, and rice. While travelers eat they can peruse the languages at L:

“Polish is spoken in Poland. In Japan, it’s Japanese. / In Brazil they don’t speak Brazilian, but rather Portuguese. / L is the list of Languages, so many ways to speak. / Like English and Spanish, Italian and Hebrew, Arabic and Greek. / So pack a handy phrase book and learn a few things to say. / A friendly ‘Bonjour!’ or ‘Buenos dias!’ can go a very long way.”

Q is your Quest “…both large and small, from climbing Kilimanjaro to seeing Niagara Falls.” You’ll cross countries by R—Railway and “…rise right through the Rockies , or across the French Riviera, / or rumble across the Australian outback making your way to Canberra.” Along the way you’ll be entertained by M—Music from mandolins, marimbas, maracas, and many different musicians—and S for Sports, such as soccer, surfing, sailing, skiing, and so many more.

Lastly, T stands for Travel as “you see, each trip a traveler takes is a moment that you spend / getting to know a whole new world. And that world becomes your friend.” And from your travels you’ll remember P, the People:

“They laugh, they eat, they sing, and they dance. They work, they sleep, they play. / They smile when they’re happy, cry when they’re sad, and teach their children to pray. / We wear different clothes over different skin, but it’s always seemed to me / that with all of the things we have in common, how different can we really be?”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-p-is-for-passport-people

Image copyright Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen

As today’s date also hosts the holiday International Town Criers Day, honoring those early “news reporters,” it’s appropriate that Devin Scillian is our featured author. Besides authoring this and other books, he is a television journalist. His childhood spent living in cities across the globe and his work make him a perfect traveling companion for P is for Passport and its introduction to the marvels of the world around us. Delivering the sights, sounds, aromas, play, and people of foreign lands through fascinating rhymes and facts is a wonderful way to get kids excited about travel and geography.

Twenty-four artists from around the United States and Canada lend their unique talents to depicting each letter. Beautiful two-page spreads burst with color and bold, up-close views of representatives for each letter-inspired text. Brilliant red and blue parrots share space with violet orchids, blue poison dart frogs, a coiled green snake, and a stealthily creeping jaguar in Karen Latham and Rebecca Latham’s painting for the letter J. Susan Guy’s soft watercolor of a frozen landscape cut only by a sleek train and its glowing headlamp transports readers to cold northern regions for the letter N. Volcanoes steam and spout while hot, golden lava burns a path through forestland in Ross Young’s vivid painting for the letter V.

Each illustration is equally compelling. Children and adults will want to linger over each page and will find P is for Passport just the beginning of their world exploration. The book would be a welcome home library addition for geography enthusiasts of all ages.

Ages 7 – 12

Sleeping Bear Press

Hardcover, 2003 ISBN 9781585361571 | ebook, 2013 ISBN 9781627533577

World Population Day Activity

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All Aboard for Travel! Word Search

 

The best way to meet your fellow citizens of the world is to travel! Today’s word search is shaped like a train—one of the best ways to see the countryside. So hop on board and start exploring! Get your printable All Aboard for Travel! puzzle.