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.
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
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.
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.
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!