Tag Archives: Fable

PPBF – A Bottle of Happiness

 

Today’s Perfect Picture Book is another self-import. As regular readers may recall, I reviewed When I Coloured in the World in April. Ehsan Abdollahi is the illustrator of that hauntingly gorgeous picture book as well, and I had intended to purchase today’s Perfect Picture Book on my next trip to London. When Abdollahi’s visa to visit the United Kingdom and attend events in London and the Edinburgh Book Festival was denied (see the details here), I joined the social media outcry and promptly moved up my timeline to purchase today’s book to show support. Like many others, I was thrilled when the denial was reversed.

The book arrived late last week, and I read it with visions of Charlottesville and social discord filling my twitter and news feeds. Oh that we could bottle happiness & learn to share our resources! Hopefully, the children who read today’s Perfect Picture Book will be emboldened to find a way.

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Title: A Bottle of Happiness

Written By:  Pippa Goodhart

Illustrated By: Ehsan Abdollahi

Publisher/date: Tiny Owl Publishing Ltd/2016

Suitable for Ages: 4-7

Themes/Topics: fable; sharing; happiness; true wealth; #ReadYourWorld

Opening:

There was once a big mountain.

The people on one side of the mountain caught fish and mined jewels and grew crops.

They were rich, and they worked hard at getting richer. They had a big market where they sold things to each other.

Brief Synopsis: Pim, a young boy living on the poor side of a big mountain, journeys to find a new story. He finds, instead, a wealthy society that lacks the one thing that’s abundant in his community: happiness.

Links to Resources:

  • Pim collects laughter, music and love in a bottle to share. What happy things or thoughts would you include in a Bottle of Happiness?
  • The bright, patchwork illustrations were inspired by “the environment, fabrics and clothes” of southern Iran. Find out more about Iran and its rich cultural heritage
  • Try creating a Persian “carpet”.

Why I Like this Book:

I love the positive message and vibrant illustrations of A Bottle of Happiness.

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Republished from Tiny Owl’s website

When Pim sets forth from his impoverished community to find new stories, he finds, instead, a wealthy community that lacks happiness. Despite having more to eat, and working “hard at getting richer”, the people on the other side of the mountain look less happy than those in Pim’s homeland. As in a popular song from those rather famous Liverpool philosophers, this child hero of A Bottle of Happiness realizes that worldly riches, money, “can’t buy me love” or happiness, and that happiness is something Pim’s community can share.

I also love Pim’s response to the request to bring some happiness, and his pivot when only silence and nothingness flow out of the bottle.  As in all good stories, Goodhart circles back to the beginning, and the tale ends with Pim sharing a story with both communities.

Abdollahi’s unique illustrations impart a timeless feel to this fable. By setting the multi-coloured figures against brightly-hued backgrounds (Abdollahi used orange backgrounds for happy scenes, gray for sad ones, and red to show love and sharing), A Bottle of Happiness could be taking place anywhere at any time, somewhat like the land of Oz.

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Republished from Tiny Owl’s website

A Note about Craft:

Goodhart utilizes a journey and a child hero to tell this tale. Setting off on a journey seeking stories, Pim instead discovers what is good about his home, shares with those who lack that happiness, and ends up creating a new story.

While Goodhart juxtaposes two “peoples” or communities, I think older children and adults can read A Bottle of Happiness as describing two ways of life, countries, or even continents. I like the vagueness as I think it lends itself to differing interpretations and renders it more understandable for younger children.

Tiny Owl Publishing Ltd, is an independent publishing company in the UK “committed to producing beautiful, original books for children”, founded on the “belief that stories act as bridges – providing pathways to new experiences whilst connecting us to here and there” and publishing a number of books by Iranian authors and illustrators. The Tiny Owl editors deliberately paired Goodhart and Abdollahi as part of a new “Intercultural Bridge project”, “where a British author collaborates with an Iranian illustrator (or vice versa) to develop a picture book, see the story from their own cultural angles and reflect them in the book.” A Bottle of Happiness is a gorgeous addition to children’s literature. I look forward to reading further intercultural collaborations.

Read interviews with Goodhart and Abdollahi, and visit Goodhart’s blog post about building bridges through picture books.  See reviews of A Bottle of Happiness here and here.

While not currently available in US book shops, A Bottle of Happiness is available through the Book Depository, which ships for free to the US.

Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list provides reviews of picture books by topic. While Susanna is taking a break for the summer, you can still check out the other great picture books featured there!

PPBF: Elephant in the Dark

A few weeks ago I reviewed Two Parrots in honor of Persian New Year. While researching activities for that post, I discovered another holiday I knew nothing about: the Sikh holiday of Vaisakhi, also called Baisakhi, celebrated each year on 14 April. This harvest festival is celebrated throughout the Punjab region of India and by Sikhs worldwide. Interestingly, I found no picture books featuring Sikh stories or this holiday. If you know of any, please mention them in the comments.

 

9780545636704_p0_v1_s118x184Title: Elephant in the Dark

Retold By: Mina Javaherbin, based on a poem by Rumi

Illustrated By: Eugene Yelchin

Publisher/date: Scholastic Press, 2015

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: Folktale; Fable; Elephants

Opening: “Merchant Ahmad had brought a mysterious creature all the way from India! The news spread fast through the village. What could the huge beast be?”

Brief Synopsis: When a merchant brings an unknown beast to the village and houses it in a darkened barn, everyone tries to guess what it is, and what it’s similar to, based on small sections of the animal.

Links to Resources:

  • Read more about Vaisakhi and color pages of Vaisakhi symbols and festivities including bhangra dancing, wheat for the harvest, and lions.
  • Fly a kite: a popular Vaisakhi activity.
  • Play 20 questions or another guessing game, such as discovering what’s in a closed box (based on shape and sound), or with eyes closed, touching one part of an object and trying to guess what it is.
  • Listen to Bhangra music and try a Bhangra dance – for ideas, check out the many youtube videos.

Why I Like this Book: This story is such a visual reminder to beware a tendency that many people share (myself included): to jump to conclusions without all of the evidence and then ignore evidence that doesn’t support those initial conclusions. Rumi’s fable is brought to life by Mina Javaherbin, an American immigrant born in Iran, and through the vibrant illustrations of Eugene Yelchin, also an American immigrant. In the end notes, Mr. Yelchin wrote,

       “I became an artist in Russia during the time when information was routinely obscured or distorted by the government. And that is why I so eagerly embraced the opportunity to illustrate this book. The importance of seeing the complete picture instead of groping for bits and pieces of it in the dark resonated deeply with me.”

I think this folktale will resonate on many levels with readers and listeners as well.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!