Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin




Tuesday, June 5, 2018

What Happened To Happy?

Life is a roller coaster of emotions; up and down, around and around.  As adults the better we know ourselves, the better we can react and adapt to the inevitable lows.  For children sadness can be a strange feeling.  It can sneak up on them without warning.  They find themselves in the doldrums not understanding the cause or the cure.

With their signature skill for perceiving the minds and hearts of children, author Michael Ian Black and illustrator, Debbie Ridpath Ohi return with a third collaboration, I'm Sad (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, June 5, 2018).  Their previous two books, I'm Bored (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, September 4, 2012 and Naked! (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, April 29, 2014) display the essence of both topics with truth and humor.  You will find this newest title as insightful. 

I'm sad.
Will I always feel like this?

Replying with total honesty, the girl on the swing is sure her flamingo friend won't feel this way always.  Chiming in is Potato commenting he was sad once.  Needless to say, Flamingo can't believe a potato can be sad.  

Everybody feels
sad sometimes.

The girl challenges the potato's statement but he assures her it's true.  The trio continues their conversation pondering the state of sadness and why it happens.  Finally, Potato has an idea.  Flamingo needs to focus on cheerfulness.

The girl yells about her most cheerful thing.  Of course, flamingos and potatoes can't enjoy this particular delectable delight.  When Potato roars out his happiest thing, readers will roar with laughter.  A competition ensures with the girl calling out all her favorite joyful things but Potato sticks with his single word.  

Does any of this make Flamingo happy?  It does not.  The three companions continue to talk about being sad until Flamingo asks an important question.  Potato's reply is perfection.  


The beauty of the narrative in this title is the tone created through the words penned by Michael Ian Black.  It's as if he is having a one-on-one conversation with each reader.  He truly comprehends children.  And although this is clearly written for a younger audience, every single one of us will take something important away from this book. 

Another distinguishing feature of Black's writing is how the characters' personalities shine through the dialogue.  Their questions, answers and comments reveal what makes them unique.  Will readers see themselves as the girl, Potato or Flamingo or a mix of them all?


Rendered digitally, the illustrations, lively and colorful, are a welcome invitation to readers beginning with the opened and matching dust jacket and book case.  The three characters, the girl, flamingo and potato are each expressing an emotion and appear to be in conversation.  This is how the story begins, continues and ends.  To the left, on the back, we read:

Brought to you by
Michael Ian Black
Debbie Ridpath Ohi
. . . and a flamingo. 

Flamingo is featured looking downcast.  (Every element is raised and varnished on the lavender canvas on the front.)  The opening and closing endpapers continue with the same background hue. Each character is saying the word SAD but a different mood is attached to the word by the punctuation used.  Swinging from the upper, left hand corner is the girl.  With only a neck and head showing Flamingo appears in the lower, left hand corner from the center.  With his words vertical Potato is looking grumpy sitting on the D.

Debbie Ridpath Ohi uses white space masterfully to enhance her characters, their body positions and facial features.  Her color palette ties the trio together.  On the girl's dress is a pink heart.  In her hair are brown bows.  Debbie adds in green grass, purple swings and the girl's yellow dress and blue shoes.  She includes other spot colors but stays true to the main shades.

Depending on the text, her images may be single page pictures, several illustrations on a page or potent double page spreads.  Another wonderful feature is the different colored text given to each character when they speak.  Readers can easily understand who is talking.  On the final two visuals, Debbie is in soothing sync with the narrative using a silhouette technique.  

One of my many favorite illustrations spans two pages.  The girl, the flamingo and the potato have reached an impasse in their musings about sadness.  From the left side to the right side is a mound of sand.  The girl is lying on the left, arms spread out holding her orange sand shovel in one hand.  Stretched across the top with legs down one side and neck and head down the other side is Flamingo.  Snuggled in the sand on the right is Potato.  They all utter a single word. 

Sigh.
Sigh.
Sigh. 


I'm Sad written by Michael Ian Black with illustrations by Debbie Ridpath Ohi is one of those books which you will reread as soon as you finish it.  You have to read it again.  It's that excellent.  The manner in which this book addresses the feeling of sadness is superb.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Debbie Ridpath Ohi and her other work please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  Debbie's website is brimming with creative goodness.  At the publisher's website you can view several interior images including one of my favorite pictures.  The publisher also has several activity sheets you can download.  Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher, features the cover reveal and a conversation with Michael and Debbie on his blog, Watch. Connect. Read.  Debbie is showcased on The Blob Blog, Quill and Quire and by author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.  Debbie has Instagram and Pinterest accounts.  Both Michael and Debbie are on Twitter

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