Board Book Review: Happy!

Our 21st board book delights parents and toddlers alike.

Happy by Pharrell Williams.
Putnam, Penguin Random House, New York, 2015.
Board book, 30 pages.
Lexile:  AD410L  ( What does AD mean in Lexile? )
AR Level:  1.7 (worth 0.5 points)  .

A board book (also available in picture book format) based on the popular song.

Happy cover resized
Happy by Pharrell Williams.

I just love song picture books and board books because they have so many applications.  Toddlers can look at the pictures.  Older children can read the words independently.  And everybody in between can sing the song!  These are nice for allowing children to read at a bit higher level than they are ready for, because they can use prior knowledge of the song lyrics to decode the words.  They can also be helpful for engaging reluctant readers who love music.

However, this type of book is challenging to do well.  Luckily, Williams and his team have done a great job converting this song to board book format.  Now, I will say that if you’ve never heard the song, this book might not make so much sense to you – the lyrics don’t exactly coalesce into a story.  But take a minute and go listen to the song, I’ll wait!

Are you back?  I have to tell you that this is one of mine, and my family’s, favorite songs ever, although I’ve never even seen the movie it’s from.  The board book captures the spirit of the music really well, and honestly the whole thing just feels uplifting.

Happy p13-14 resized
Pages 13 and 14 of Happy include the cardboard band and some emoji poses.

The art direction and creative design on this was stellar, so let me take a moment to repeat the credits – Interior photography Amanda Pratt, Design/photo illustrations Kristin Smith, Props Andi Burnett, and Wardrobe Michel Onofrio.

There’s a cast of about 15 kids – some are only in one or two photos while others make multiple appearances in different outfits.  Sometimes the children are interacting with adorable props made out of corrugated cardboard, sometimes illustrations or photographs are added.

Happy p7-8 resized
Backgrounds are combined with cardboard props and child models on pages

The outfits are very modern and fun.  Perhaps one day we will look back on them and say “oh that was so 2010s” the way I’ve commented on some older books!  The children are from a variety of ethnic backgrounds and have a variety of hair types and styles, which is always refreshing to see in a picture book.  Even rarer is that different body types are represented, which is almost never seen in a non-issue-based book.  One of the children also has glasses.

Dynamic movement and excitement pervades the book, from the strategically capitalized words in every sentence to the jumping dancing and soaring poses.  The text itself is also in motion, staggered or slanted across the pages.  But the black sans serif font is still clear and easy to read or follow throughout the entire book.

Happy p29-30 endpapers resized
The final pages of Happy (29-30) show the entire cast and give the reader a mission to spread happiness.

An interesting challenge for students would be to listen to the song, read the book, and then ask why certain words were capitalized.  A teacher could also ask older students to analyze the sentence structure or identify metaphors in the song.  Or, of course, simply read for fun.

Overall, this is a popular board book with our family and a fun addition to your board book collection.  For me personally, it sparks the same kind of joy that I get whenever I read my favorite Happiness book illustrated by Julie FlettRecommended.

Author: colorfulbookreviews

I work in a library by day and parent the rest of the time. I am passionate about good books representing the full spectrum of human diversity for every age group and reading level. This blog is my attempt to help parents, educators, and librarians find the best children's books authored by or featuring characters of color.

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