Friday, November 30, 2012

Perfect Picture Book Friday

TitleWhen You Are Happy
Author/Illustrator: Eileen Spinelli / Geraldo Valerio
Publisher/Date: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers/ 2006
Genre/Audience: Fiction/ Ages 3+
Themes: Emotions, Poetry, Family, Unconditional Love

"When you are sad./ I will hold you./ I will let you cry./ I will catch your tears/ in a blue cup/ and water the yellow flowers/ and they will grow/ more beautiful."

Synopsis: From BOOKLIST - "Spinelli offers an unusual approach to helping children understand their fears and feelings. Using a comforting refrain ("When you are . . ."), each member of the young girl's family reassures her when she is cold, sick, lonely, tired, grumpy, lost, and happy: "When you are afraid, / I will take your hand / and not let go-- / except once to borrow one hundred tiny stars / to spell out the words: YOU ARE SAFE." Appealingly offbeat, whimsical illustrations characterize the girl's emotions: when she's afraid, she's depicted in a Little Red Riding Hood outfit. Like a Technicolor dream, the art is full of movement and bright color, with smiling, happy people wafting across every spread. This will be great for lap sharing; children will feel warmed by the sense of close family ties." Julie Cummins

Why I Love This Book:
I rediscovered this on my bookshelf from my teaching days.  And I can't wait to share it with my boys.  What child doesn't need to be reminded that no matter how they are feeling, they are loved unconditionally?  Spinelli's lyrical voice, rich with metaphor, strikes a chord for me that informational books about emotions do not.  Valerio's illustrations are bright and inviting, even with the darker emotions of being afraid and lost.  I love how this book can be read on many levels, from the basic understanding of love and emotions to the deeper symbolism of what it means to search for a loved one who is lost.  Once again, I am in awe of picture books like this one that shine for a spectrum of readers, from young child to adult.

Writing Activity: Begin with Spinelli's refrain: "When you are _____."  Have students fill in an emotion, directing their short poem at a family member. This would be a good way to jump into a discussion of empathy.  The poems may make a nice holiday/Mother's Day/Father's Day gift.

Create an emotions poster or flashcard deck using student photos.  Here's an example.

Family Tree Template - Create a family tree, like the one on the dedications page.

For more links to Perfect Picture Books, a collection of bloggers who contribute at Susanna Leonard Hill’s site, click here.


  1. Laura, such a beautiful rhyming book for young children. I was looking for one for a friend and I'm going to check this out. I love Spinelli's books -- high quality. Thanks for sharing!

  2. This sounds so lovely, Laura, and you are right - all children can benefit from exploring and understanding their emotions and feeling unconditionally loved. I'm so glad you've added this to our list!

  3. Looks like another Spinelli gem!

  4. I don't know this Spinelli treasure... it sounds so soothing!

  5. There are lots of fabulous books about feelings. This is the only one that I have seen.heard about that adds that however a child is feeling, s/he is unconditionally loved. An important addition.

  6. After reading your review, I can't wait to read this. It sounds precious!

  7. I like the bright cheery cover and the Rhythm of the text. This looks like a good pick!

  8. What a wonderful-sounding book. I love books that reassure kids, and this one sounds top-notch. Thanks for sharing!