Van Hout’s (The Child Cruncher) catalogue 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. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
New York Times Book Review
Mies van Hout’s “Happy” is a tour de force of underwater awesomeness and emotion, showcasing what an artist can do with a few pastels, black paper and something fundamental to express. I want to hug it and buy a copy for every shorty on my list...On the last page, a gloriously plump whalelike creature surges upward, ending the book with a surprising sense of closure: “delighted.” No reader could feel otherwise.
"A delightful amuse-bouche of a book." --Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Children's Literature - Sharon Salluzzo
A single word, a dominant color, and an illustration of a fish combine to form more than the sum of the parts in this picture book about feelings. What appears to be a simple presentation for each word, such as "curious," "afraid," "glad," and "bored," to name just a few, actually offers many perspectives and opens up many potential uses for this book. Discussions relating to the feelings named can center on the illustration of the fish, why a particular color was selected for the word, and why the particular style of print was employed. Teachers and parents can use this material to begin discussions about what makes a child feel a particular way. The text is also a vocabulary builder for young children. It can help children learn to read facial expressions by having them mimic each one. The fish look as if they have been drawn in a childlike manner with chalk on a blackboard creating immediacy with the reader, and eliminating any intimidation. The cover is an invitation to smile and open the book. Reviewer: Sharon Salluzzo
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 2—Van Hout uses fish with varying facial expressions and postures to depict 20 different emotions. The fish themselves are drawn in colorful pastels and set against black backgrounds, while the word for the feeling portrayed is on a bright, textured background hue, e.g. "furious," shows an angry fish with the word on a bright red background. This attractive book could be used one-on-one or in a small group to discuss what causes one to feel a particular way and to introduce the vocabulary of emotions.—Grace Oliff, Ann Blanche Smith School, Hillsdale, NJ
Beautiful, vibrant fish--although not ones found in nature--illustrate emotions in this art piece for children and for adults translated from the Dutch. Each double-page spread is constructed with an image of a fish on one side, in what looks like a chalk drawing on a blackboard. Opposite is a single hand-lettered word, also drawn in chalk or crown, on a jewel-toned, textured sheet. "Brave" is a very small pale fish with a tentative smile, isolated in the lower corner of the black page, opposite a cherry-red page with the word brave in lower-case white letters. "Sad" is small, smeared letters on a blue page like streaks of rain or tears. The large blue fish opposite has little definition; eyes and mouth are almost invisible in its misery. The "content" green fish aligns itself in the precise middle of the page; one can almost see it wriggling in its satisfaction. The "shocked" square-ish fish is shocking pink and purple and prickly, with open mouth and round eyes. The line, color, and texture make each page a pleasure to return to, and each single word is fully expressed in its corresponding picture. Along with the azure-and–sky-blue ovoid fish at the end, readers will pronounce themselves, in yellow, white and green letters, "delighted." (Picture book. 4-10)
The New York Times Book Review
…a tour de force of underwater awesomeness and emotion, showcasing what an artist can do with a few pastels, black paper and something fundamental to express. I want to hug it and buy a copy for every shorty on my list.