The Happy Day, by Ruth Krauss and illustrated by Marc Simont, is a Caldecott Honor recipient from 1950. It is a simple story about animals in a forest during the wintertime, slowly coming out of their hibernations, waking up to springtime.
At the beginning of the story, the field mice, bears, little snails, squirrels and groundhogs are sleeping in their various locations. They then open their eyes and begin to sniff the world around them. They run, laugh, and dance together. The animals become excited to see a single flower sprouting up from the ground. This flower seems to symbolize the beginning of spring.
This book has high frequency words, and not many of them. The repetitive sentences provide a predictive genre of text that a child can pick up on fairly quickly, and perhaps even begin to read along with. While to some people, the sentences may seem short and choppy at times, it seems like a deliberate decision based off of the idea that a child will enjoy this simple story.
The illustrations in this book are simple yet intriguing. The entire book is in shades of black and white, except for the single yellow flower on the last page. Even though the animals are all painted in tones of black and gray, they contain details so minute sometimes they can be overlooked. The multitude of snails sniffing in the tree, for example, are bunched together and yet finely detailed.
The eyes of the field mice appear to be curious and explorative. Also important to note is the use of light in the illustrations. In the beginning pages, when all of the animals are sleeping, they are drawn with darker shades, and when they begin to awaken, they brighten up and become more vivid. Additionally, there is a stark contrast between the grayscale trees, bushes and animals and the bright white snow. This provides juxtaposition and variety even within the seemingly boring color scheme of the book. The bright yellow flower on the last page represents spring and happiness, and matches the yellow cover of the book. All in all, this simple yet masterfully illustrated book is sure to delight any young reader.
By Emma Cohen