How often do we hear that? “I can’t wait until…” followed by an upcoming event that is going to make everything better.
Instead of waiting for future happiness, let’s follow the advice of Julie Berry in Happy Right Now. What would life be like if we didn’t procrastinate joy?
The book begins with a young girl claiming she will be happy when she has “a puppy, a unicorn, an ice cream sundae, and a castle with a friendly dragon.” How often do we do this to ourselves? Procrastinate joy until certain events happen first? What a shame it would be if a puppy came our way, and we didn’t stop to enjoy it because it wasn’t ours. Or, if we neglected the joy of ice cream because it didn’t have a cherry on top. The message of being “happy right now” is a great reminder.
What I love most about Happy Right Now is Berry’s respect for bad days and actual challenges. She acknowledges them and includes suggestions. Some days, feeding our “worry monkey a banana” might be all it takes to turn things around. Other days, sad experiences – like a friend moving away – might not have a solution and justify a cry. Although I can (and will have to) wait, I do look forward to reading this book with a classroom full of children to see how they react to the breathing exercise Berry includes. I expect to see them “shaking their bones turned to jelly” throughout the following weeks.
Holly Hatam’s pictures add to the joy of the manuscript. Seeing monkey on the back of a child trying not to acknowledge it represents how many of us handle stress. And the facial expressions throughout the story help set the tone for Berry’s important message.
Hatum’s end paper illustrations also remind me of another book about joy – 100 THINGS that make me HAPPY. Amy Schwartz’s rhymes are list of things that bring delight. Many of those things aren’t things as much as they are experiences, like twirling in circles or sitting on Grandma’s lap for a story. This title has extra value as a read aloud for elementary schools which celebrate the 100th day of school.
A third book that I would like to highlight brings a smile every time I see it.
Look what a cheerful book this is! The main character is an actual exclamation mark!
(If this makes you as giddy as it does me, I am guessing you also spend your days attempting to share your love of writing with K-2 graders.)
In Exclamation Mark the characters are all forms of punctuation. 😊 Exclamation mark doesn’t understand why he/she is different than the nearby periods and is miserable until getting to know an inquisitive question mark. In a moment of frustration, Exclamation Mark accidentally stumbles onto his/her purpose and excitedly embraces the role.
Finding and acting on one’s purpose in life brings lasting happiness – the kind that doesn’t disappear when medical appointments don’t go as we hope or when we no longer get to enjoy the swings at recess. We will have sad moments, but the goal would be to keep them temporary – to embrace our inner Winnie the Pooh more often than our Eeyore. And to focus on the things that bring joy. If we need a reminder of what those things are, we can follow Amy Schwartz’ lead and make a list.