Reviews /

Find Your Happy

Authored by Emily Coxhead
Illustrated by Emily Coxhead
Published by Walker Books

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Find Your Happy is the third book written and illustrated by Emily Coxhead, and her first picture book for younger readers. It is a big, bright, bold celebration of happiness and how to find your own joy when you are feeling a little less than joyful. 

Educators, especially those who love and engage with all things reading, may be aware of Emily Coxhead as the founder of The Happy Newspaper; a quarterly subscription newspaper filled with only the most positive news from around the world. I receive these papers for my classroom and would certainly agree that Find Your Happy feels like an attempt at the extension of positivity Coxhead is trying to sprinkle around the world. 

This book is a lovely adult-led addition to any EYFS and KS1 classroom, however, I was left with a slight feeling of dissatisfaction and unease when I finished reading. I took some time to reflect and further discuss this text with a friend, and experienced EYFS practitioner, to work out why I was unhappy about this being an independent read. 

On the surface, this comes across as helpfully suggesting ways to, as the title suggests, Find Your Happy. However, there is no acknowledgment that feeling ‘sad, angry or worried,’ are perfectly normal, valid and necessary emotions. Instead, it seems that the suggestion is these emotions should be transitioned from as quickly as possible in order to move back to the ‘preferred’ state of perpetual calm, mirth and entertainment. 

As a teacher, of course I want my students to be as positive and happy as possible, but I also want them to know it is normal to feel bored, angry or worried. If I was using this text in class, I would want to be able to have a discussion, likely with other texts, to support and develop skills to manage these more challenging emotions. Simply suggesting ways to mask and present as happy is not a message I want to perpetuate. The reality for many pupils struggling with sadness or anger is that there is often not an environment beyond school able to support the negotiation of these big feelings.

I am also uneasy at the suggestion that ‘shy’ is not an acceptable state of being and should, again, be masked with a ‘brave superhero’ act. Having come across many shy pupils, I fear this message, without a space to discuss, could cause upset and create feelings of not being ‘right’. 

All that said, the final few pages do go on to highlight that everyone has ‘incredible, ok and bad days,’ so there is some acknowledgement that emotions are transitory, changeable and complex. However, I was left feeling that the message was that only the incredible days count; not a message I want to instil in young pupils. 

The end pages of this text are nothing short of beautiful, which is what I would expect from Coxhead, being a talented artist and illustrator. I can’t wait to create my own in this style with my UKS2 class as backgrounds to our recent poetry writing. In fact, all the images, which are the strength of this text, make for wonderful writing and art stimuli for all ages and will inspire many a creative project, I’m sure.