#DecolonizeReading2023 Books Early Readers Features Genre It's Monday What Are You Reading Lifespan of a Reader Picture Books Reading Themes

[Monday Reading] Finding Joy and Making Happy in 2022 Picturebooks

Here's to finding happiness, even in the most unlikely places.


It's Monday! What Are You Reading

Myra here.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (new host of Monday reading: Kathryn T at Book Date). It has been awhile since I joined this reading community and I intend to be more present this year, life circumstances permitting.

Similar to last year, we hope to feature books that fit any of the following criteria:

  1. Postcolonial literature and/or [pre/post] revolutionary stories
  2. Stories by indigenous / first-nation peoples / people of colour
  3. Narratives of survival and healing, exile and migration, displacement and dispossession
  4. Books written or illustrated by people who have been colonized, oppressed, marginalized
  5. Translated or international literature

The Little Book Of Joy (Amazon | Book Depository)

Written by His Holiness The Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams and Rachel Neumann Illustrated by Rafael Lopez
Published by Crown Books for Young Readers (2022)
ISBN: 9780593484234 (ISBN10: 0593484231) Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.

I have read and enjoyed The Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s The Book Of Joy (Amazon | Book Depository) apparently, the very first book I read in 2017. I was thrilled to find out that there is a children’s lit version of what it means to live a life of light and joy, even in the midst of darkness and misery.

I even found this quote I featured in our GatheringBooks Facebook Page in 2017:

This picturebook exquisitely illustrated by Rafael Lopez is everything that it says it is: a book that brings forth hope and light as the reader turns the pages. It also starts off with sadness and isolation, a sense of displacement and disconnection – an experience shared by two boys coming from both ends of the earth.

I like how the book does not depict joy as something that is simply there for the taking. If one is lucky, one finds it in the center of aloneness if one pays attention to shards of beauty and is still enough to listen and look.

It is that quiet noticing of “something beautiful” that caught my eye – a refrain that Mary Oliver used in practically all of her poetry that it becomes almost like a prayer to me: this chorus of paying attention to the world:

It is this contrast and wilful attention to the opposite of grief, the counterpart of sorrow, the other side of hatred – that opened me up even more to the joy that this book gives as a gift, as an invitation, a challenge even.

The shimmering colors in Rafael Lopez’s palette add another layer of reading experience to this little book of joy. May it find its way to you like a warm hug from a distant moon.

Making Happy (Amazon | Book Depository)

Written by Sheetal Sheth Illustrated by Khoa Le
Published by Barefoot Books (2022)
ISBN: 9781646866229 (ISBN10: 1646866223) Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.

Leila is listless in school. She does not really feel like doing anything at all. There is a heaviness that cannot seem to be lifted. Her mother is ill. And life has not been the same since.

In just a few pages, the reader bears witness to Layla’s anger, resentment, and despair. Rarely does a picturebook come around that captures loss and the pain of terminal illness so evocatively – it reminded me somewhat of Margaret Wild and Anne Spudvilas’ Jenny Angel (Amazon | Book Depository) and Hair Love [Amazon | Book Depository] by Matthew A. Cherry and Vashti Harrison.

Yet once again, it is in the opening of one’s self to all this pain, all these tears – that one emerges on the other side of it, notwithstanding – as Layla’s dad invited her to “make happy.”

And incredibly, there is joy and light and love to be found – even in all that pain, even in all that grief. What a blessing this book is. How lucky we are that books like this exist in the world. What a way to welcome 2023 indeed. Bring it on, world. We are ready for you.

#DecolonizeReading2023 Update: 1/2 out of target 100

How about you? What gives you joy? What makes you happy?

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

4 comments on “[Monday Reading] Finding Joy and Making Happy in 2022 Picturebooks

  1. lindabaie

    Hi Myra, I shared The Little Book of Joy, too, today, a special book that I had to have because of the earlier book, too. Making Happy is new to me so will look for it! I hope you are doing well & starting the new year with joy! Most recently, I found it by being with my family, celebrating our ‘late’ Christmas all together. And often, I find it in nature, ever present, always beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The Little Book of Joy looks so cute! I hope you enjoy reading this week.

    Majanka @ I Heart Reading


  3. Both of these books are so profound. I agree with you that we need books like Making Happy in our lives.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Rafael Lopez’s artwork perfectly complemented the text.

    Liked by 1 person

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