HAPPY by Mies Van Houten hardcover
Clear, strong lines and radiant colors that seem to smile at the reader characterize Mies van Hout’s drawings. In Happy, Mies shows all the emotions a young child encounters. Each double page spread is devoted to one fish, showing a particular emotion with its name in lettering that expresses the same feeling. Swim into Happy where the dazzling fish sparkle against the dark background and let the images spark laughter and empathy.
Van Hout’s (The Child Cruncher) catalog of emotions is dead simple: an emotion word (“shy,” “surprised,” “proud”) appears on one page, and a drawing of a fish expressing that emotion is shown on the other. But what fish! Scrawled like children’s doodles or cartoons in sizzling lines of scarlet, orange, aqua, and fuchsia, each one swims alone in an ink-black sea, reacting to experiences readers can only guess at. The emotion words, one per spread, are handwritten with childlike care over pages scribbled with color, and are just as suggestive of each emotion as the fish are. “Curious,” a canary-colored fish, glides goggle-eyed toward something off-page. On the opposing page, the letters that spell “curious” are all different colors, like a cheerful ransom note. The “Nervous” fish is long, thin, and miserable-looking, outlined in pale, tremulous lines. “Bored” is a flounder, almost cross-eyed with ennui. There’s no particular story arc, or even a story to be found within each drawing—it’s a delightful amuse-bouche of a book, and an aquatic introduction to everyday emotions. Ages 2–up.