The Colour of Happy is a beautifully illustrated book that explores children’s emotions. The story follows a young child on a walk through a spring day during which he finds, loses and recovers a special thing, encounters a kind stranger and delivers a gift of love. As these things happen, he encounters a range of emotions, each of which is named, illustrated (through the pictures and the child’s behaviour) and given a colour, creating a rainbow-like read from start to finish.
The simple story – of wandering along, having your attention caught by something and encountering moments of joy and triumph interwoven with disappointment and frustration – is an experience that most children will be able to relate to. Laura Baker’s use of rhyme, repetition and rhythm is brilliant for young readers and makes for a lovely read aloud. Angie Rozelaar’s fantastic illustrations complement the text so well with the use of simple shapes, block colour and perfect facial expressions to represent each emotion realistically.
While often the narrative of the book explains what the illustrations show, there are moments when the reader has to assimilate text and illustration to make sense of what they are reading. At one crucial moment, the reader has to carefully examine the illustration to understand the story, which provides a lovely moment of challenge for readers.
The book provides an excellent platform from which to name and explore some common emotions with young children. For example, before reading, you could use some of the pictures of the child to ask what they think the child is feeling and what makes them think that. As well as examining the cause and effect of certain feelings for the character in the book (What makes him feel that way? How does he behave when he feels that way?), you could also explore children’s experiences of emotions: What sort of things make you happy/ angry/ envious? What colour would you give calm/ proud/ excitement? What sort of things would you do if you felt hopeful/ angry/ doubtful? The book also provides a good opportunity to explore how feelings can get in the way sometimes and strategies we can use to avoid this. I also appreciated the use of a boy as the character that undertakes this emotional journey, as it is not always easy to find examples of male characters experiencing a range of emotions.
This is a book that I can imagine coming back to over and over again, helping to touch base with how we feel.
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