Some Helpful Tips for a Better World and a Happier Life
by Rebecca Doughty
Schwartz & Wade/Random House (April 2008)
ISBN-10: 0375842721, ISBN-13: 978-0375842726
Ages 4-8 (and up)
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Begin each day by making funny faces in the mirror.
Experiment with your hairdo.
Make cupcakes. Often!
Invent occasions for celebrations.
Some Helpful Tips for a Better World and a Happier Life, Rebecca Doughty, p. 1-9.
Some Helpful Tips for a Better World and a Happier Life is one of those books that reminds you of the good in the world, and of simple, fun ways to bring some happiness and playfulness into your life. It is both wise and silly at the same time–a wonderful combination. Children will laugh aloud at some of the suggestions, while absorbing their wisdom. I think the book will have a strong appeal to both child and adult readers–it’s one of those books that transcends the lines.
It is easy to forget how to be playful, how to laugh, and how to find fun in things, with all the pain there is in the world, and the pressures we’re each under. Children today have a lot of pressure put on them, and are also more aware of painful events in the world. Some Helpful Tips for a Better World and a Happier Life is a fresh reminder on how to find the joy in life. Doughty (You Are to Me, Lost and Found) instructs the reader, using wise and silly ideas, on how to feel happier, from making silly faces in the mirror, to inventing your own reasons to celebrate things. Some of the suggestions have an almost therapeutic feel mixed in with the playfulness.
Doughty’s suggestions move from silly yet wise suggestions on ways to find happiness and change your viewpoint, to ways to connect with other people and make a difference in their lives (as well as your own), to some more practical yet wise suggestions. While I l ove most of the suggestions, the change between the sections felt a bit abrupt, almost as if subheadings were needed to make the divide more clear or to seem intentional. There were only one or two suggestions that slighty jarred me. “Eat your vegetables,” while wise (eating healthily can affect the mood and spirits as well as the body), doesn’t seem to have the same playful silliness as the first part of the book. Perhaps if it was written a bit differently, it might. And “Be a hero” felt like a heavy statement, though the illustrations make the words clear that you can be a hero in small ways (such as helping ducklings safely cross the road).
Doughty’s suggestions are short and to-the-point, which gives them greater strength. The fanciful text also looks handwritten, which adds to the playful tone of the book. I was initially put off by the title, which sounded to me like it a potentially preachy book. Instead, the book was full of delight.
Doughty’s ink-and-vinyl-based-paint illustrations are whimsical and simple, and their playful quality perfectly suits the feeling of the text. Her illustrative style is reminiscent of Lauren Child’s, and is easily recognizable; if you’ve seen it once, it’s likely you’d know it again. Odd perspectives, limbs that curve instead of bend, and facial features brought about with just a few lines add to the whimsical feeling. Doughty’s illustrations also have a child-like quality to them, especially seen through her rendering of flowers, birds, and the sun–as a child might draw them.
Broad sweeps of color make up the backgrounds, often with one color for the foreground and one color for the background. There is a free quality to Doughty’s lines, with a slightly cartoonish bent. One character, an orange-haired girl, is the main character, seen throughout every illustration, which brings a nice sense of continuity. Doughty refreshingly brings in characters from different ethnic backgrounds. Doughty also uses pattern, and moves from full spreads to one illustration per page, bringing visual diversity.
Some Helpful Tips for a Better World and a Happier Life is a joyful celebration of playfulness and life, and is one of those delicious books that will appeal to both children and adults. I can see adults giving this book to another adult as a gift–a reminder of the important things in life, a way to balance your life and bring greater happiness–as well as children having a lot of fun with this book. I’m already thinking about buying a few extra copies for some good friends.
If you know a child or an adult who needs some cheering up, or who needs a breath of fresh air and laughter, give them this book. Highly recommended!