Seven (Plus Some) Very Possible
Dramatic Fish Before Breakfast

h1 June 20th, 2012 by jules

(Click to enlarge)

It wasn’t too long ago that I wrote over at Kirkus (and then followed up here at
7-Imp with some more art from the book) about a recent offering from the Dutch publisher Lemniscaat. Today, I’m shining the spotlight on one more of their Spring 2012 offerings (as in, the American edition from Lemniscaat USA), Mies van Hout’s Happy, released in April and originally titled Vrolijk when first published in The Netherlands last year.

(Featured above is a spread in Dutch—I couldn’t resist—but the rest below are in English. Promise.)

I’ve been sitting on this book a while now and am just now getting around to posting about it. Just last week, Emily Jenkins wrote about it at the New York Times, and I feel compelled to share with you what she wrote, given that she beat me to it and nails the book’s charms:

Mies van Hout’s Happy is a tour de force of underwater awesomeness and emotion, showcasing what an artist can do with a few pastels, black paper and something fundamental to express. I want to hug it and buy a copy for every shorty on my list.

If you want to read the rest of what she wrote, it’s here. As she notes, there is no complicated plot here. We have a series of fish, expressing one-word emotions, but it’s the energy with which van Hout depicts these feelings that is so compelling, not to mention—as Jenkins writes—the “fresh colors” and “strange shapes” put to use. Readers are also presented the types of emotions you’d expect in such a picture book—“surprised,” “sad,” “afraid” (pictured left), and the titular “happy”—but van Hout also throws in some “loving,” “sure,” “astonished,” and “furious” (the spread pictured above in Dutch) for good measure.

There is no shortage of picture books about emotions. As Jenkins notes, we Americans love to go on about our feelings (even though this is a European import). But this one stands out for the dynamic art, the vigorous strokes of pastels and vivid colors. Also, it must be noted: What a fabulous creative prompt this book would be—in many different directions—in a classroom (writing prompt during language arts or art prompt during art class) or school library.

Here are some more spreads. Enjoy (and be sure to click on each image to see the playful pastel lettering).

(Click on image to see entire spread)

(Click on image to see entire spread)

(Click on image to see entire spread)

(Click on image to see entire spread)

(Click on image to see entire spread)

(Click on image to see entire spread)

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HAPPY. Text copyright © 2011 by Mies van Hout. First U.S. Edition © 2012. Spreads used with permission of Lemniscaat USA, New York.

5 comments to “Seven (Plus Some) Very Possible
Dramatic Fish Before Breakfast”

  1. These are stunning and expressive drawings. “Brave” and “curious” are my favorites.

  2. LOVE this book – I have it on my desk and can’t stop staring at it.

  3. I rather like Shy and Curious – I like all of them, but the eyes on curious are very much my internal look when I get nosy!!

    I love the whole dps of Brave – just the word with the red background makes me glad. This illustrator is just amazing.

  4. i ADORE this !! love the black background and bright colors.

  5. I love those fish. I want to frame the happy one and put it on a wall somewhere.

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