Written and Illustrated by Hannah E. Harrison
Dial Books for Young Readers, 2015
It was a horrible, dreary day and it suited Bernice’s mood just fine.
The plot in a nutshell: A girl having a bad day gets some perspective.
Bernice is at a birthday party where she feels everything is going wrong for her. Everyone else but her gets a piece of cake with a flower on it. She is also stuck with warm prune-grapefruit juice while everyone else has cold strawberry melon soda. The piñata gets broken before she has a chance to play and she doesn’t even get any of the goodies that fall out. When the balloons show up, she decides she won’t be left out again and grabs the whole bunch. They carry her up into the sky. On her way up, she passes a grumpy squirrel and a sad bird and bumps into a gloomy gray rain cloud. It makes her realize that she isn’t the only one with problems. She gives a balloon to the rain cloud and he lightens up and stops raining. As she floats back down, she gives one to the bird, who starts singing, and one to the squirrel, who cheers up as he hugs the balloon. She shares the balloons with all her friends and they all start sharing, too, which makes everyone happier.
Author/illustrator Hannah E. Harrison tells us right from the start (heck, right from the book’s cover, honestly) that Beatrice is having a crummy day. And she’s at a birthday party, so it’s a day that should be extra fun, which just means the bad stuff is that much more amplified. I like that she learns the lesson as a result of making a bad decision to be greedy and grab for all of the balloons, but I wish the lesson itself had been a little less heavy-handed. Of course, the upside of a really obvious lesson is that it will be easy for kids to understand and this book’s message, about gaining some perspective and thinking of others, is one we can all use a refresher course on now and then.
The artwork, done in acrylic paint, shows off Ms. Harrison’s expertise in creating believable emotions in facial expressions. This is especially important in a book like this where emotions are such a large part of the story. Beatrice’s very sour face plays up the contrast in her mood to that of her obviously happier friends. Her surroundings reflect her feelings, too, with the early part of the book in darker colors and the last parts in bright sunshine. This one may be a little overly didactic, but it makes up for it with a likeable main character and wonderful artwork.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that the best way to stop feeling sorry for yourself is to start thinking of others.