A New York Times Best Children’s Book of 2021
A Publishers Weekly High-Concept Picture Book for Children
A CCBC (Cooperative Children's Book Center) Choices Best Children’s Book, 2022
Is there any creature in the world happier than a dog with a ball in its mouth? Maybe a cat in the sun? Or a kid eating ice cream? This gentle book, with its soft and evocative colored pencil illustrations, is philosophical in its approach to the millions of forms that happiness can take, as well as the contrasting disappointments and sorrows that we encounter as we navigate our lives.
Starting from the happiness of waking up into a brand-new day, the book goes on to explore the kinds of relationships and contrasts that play out between our feelings and experiences. These contrasts play out beautifully across the page from left to right, and across a couple of long gatefold pages. Whether it's the nervousness of a beginning paired with the happiness of a middle; the indignity of a cut against the happiness of a scab; the boredom of nothing to do contrasted with the happiness of nothing to do; or the divide of mine against the happiness of our, these pages challenge the reader to think about daily activities and experiences and the feelings they conjure. They also lead us to think about the substance of our happiness, and what the ingredients of it might be. Written with subtlety and nuance and illustrated in pencil, pen and watercolor with great tenderness, The Happiness of a Dog with a Ball in its Mouth is a gentle, fun, and philosophical read, with which one can start and end the day.
“A contemplative exploration… Readers will thrill to a spread about the critical difference between hearing no and saying no.” —Kirkus
“Paying attention to the small things in life has become something of a national pastime during the pandemic. Bruce Handy honors the quiet fluctuations of childhood days in The Happiness of a Dog with a Ball in Its Mouth, a picture book with beguiling colored-pencil illustrations by Hyewon Yum. The book toggles back and forth between moments... We see a child splayed out on a chair, face upturned with exasperation and ennui: ‘The boredom of nothing to do.’ On the facing page, the same child lies spread-eagled and beatific on a picnic blanket: ‘The happiness of nothing to do.’ In topic and rhythm this wonderful book brings to mind Ruth Krauss's 1952 classic, A Hole Is to Dig, illustrated with sturdy, tumbling little children by the young Maurice Sendak. But The Happiness of a Dog with a Ball in Its Mouth has a restful and contemplative quality that makes it, this year especially, feel like just the thing for 3- to 8-year-olds and their families.” —Wall Street Journal
A Publishers Weekly High-Concept Picture Book for Children ★ “With this loose collection of turnabouts, Handy (Wild Things, for adults) and Yum (Lion Needs a Haircut) meditate on the way moments of disgrace, loss, and worry can resolve into something better… Gently tinted spreads by Yum carry emotion and straightforward beauty, as in a portrait of a bird resting (“The stillness of a perch”), then taking wing (“The happiness of flight”). This work takes a place on the shelf of A Hole Is to Dig–style miscellanies as the collaborators trace how adverse experiences might be openings to learning and joy.” —STARRED REVIEW, Publishers Weekly
“A meditation on keeping things in perspective. Yum makes impeccable images, carefully and uncomplicatedly, with pencil and watercolor, bringing each moment to life, always adding a touch of humor. Children and families will laugh at 'the effort of holding it in. The happiness of letting it go,' with an image of a boy standing at the toilet. A sweet, never sentimental book about finding happiness in small places, and perfect for lap-reading or story times." -- School Library Journal
A New York Times Best Children’s Book of 2021 “Handy’s debut picture book, arguably an antidote to Charles Schulz’s Happiness Is a Warm Puppy, is as much about the buildup to his title as it is about its payoff. ‘The patience of a dog at the door,’ waiting to go out — leash in mouth, eyes bright, tail poised in that moment before wagging — is a necessary prelude to the dog’s joy. Just as losing precedes finding, and ‘holding in’ precedes ‘letting go.’ By turns wistful and whimsical, and particularly apt for these times, this one’s a keeper.” —New York Times
A CCBC (Cooperative Children's Book Center) Choices Best Children’s Book, 2022 “The vast and varied feeling of happiness is explored by paired statements that connect it to other emotions and various actions, with illustrations providing visual context for each pairing… Across the book, the simple statements are carefully crafted, revealing ideas that are sometimes surprising (‘The indignity of a cut. The happiness of a scab.’), sometimes surprisingly insightful (‘The frustration of hearing No. The happiness of saying No.’). These moments of unexpected connection balance the repetitive, restrained structure of the text. A book that opens with a Black child awakening and being greeted by two dogs closes with a brown-skinned child going to bed, bringing the narrative full circle. Other children are featured across the book’s pages and the 24-hour time span, and a concluding wordless double-page spread gathers many of the diverse children introduced throughout in a playground scene.” —Cooperative Children’s Book Center
- A New York Times Best Children's Book of 2021
- A CCBC Choices Best Children's Book, 2022