Book: What Makes You Happy

What Makes You HappyWhat Makes You Happy
Jimmy Gownley
2006 (Renaissance)

This is the second volume in the Amelia Rules! series. I have enjoyed both of the first two books in this series very much, but there were a lot of things in this one that I was particularly impressed with. The first book, The Whole World’s Crazy, was very light. It let the reader get to know Amelia and her friends and family, her neighborhood and school and general situation in life. It did not dig too deep into weighty matters, although it also didn’t pretend they weren’t there. In What Makes You Happy, those heavier issues are brought a bit more to the forefront. Issues of relationships, personal identities and even family were dealt with in a much more raw way. This gave the book a little bit more gravity and allowed the characters to develop in ways that they didn’t really in the first book. I actually thought this was a great move on the part of the author. The series wouldn’t have been as appealing if the first book had been this heavy and the issues discussed wouldn’t have been as important to the readers if we hadn’t gotten to know and care about the characters and their world the way we did in the first book. I was incredibly impressed. As much as I enjoyed The Whole World’s Crazy, I didn’t really appreciate Gownley’s storytelling skill until I got through What Makes You Happy. Now I can’t wait to see what he has in store in the third book, Superheroes.

Sequential art is always a tricky medium. It allows you to show what’s going on in ways that text alone does not, but it also often invites the reader to rush through the pages, searching for the next bit of text. Gownley does a wonderful job of slowing down the reader’s eyes as they read a page. He has pages where a major part of the page shows a single scene and something in it moves in a set of inset boxes, like a large picture of a tree with a leaf falling through inset boxes on the page. And all around these peaceful, almost tranquil scenes Amelia is telling her story. But you have to stop to look through the panels at the leaf falling or the moon crossing the sky, which briefly slows down the story, and part of you is probably working out why that particular image was included right there. Another technique Gownley uses is to include fun details that you want to stop and look for. A great example of this would be the ever-changing symbols on Pajamaman’s chest. The reader never knows when there will be a symbol or what it will be, but there’s a good chance they’re stopping as often as they think of it to look for one!

I was just incredibly impressed with this book. The visual artistry of both the art itself and the design of each page was brilliant. The story was engaging and fascinating on many different levels (I still think I missed something in the Lucy and Mew story and want to go back and read it again!). Every piece of the whole seemed carefully thought through and chosen for a reason and the result was a solid, interestingly multifaceted whole. I am looking forward to reading more about Amelia and then I might even go looking for more from this author. I highly recommend this series, it’s well worth the read!

- Publisher’s Description
- The Amelia Rules! Website

- Buy it from Amazon

Cybils Shortlists Announced!

Cybils LogoAll of the Cybils shortlists for 2007 have been announced at this point, including the graphic novel list that I helped put together! All the lists are great and I can’t imagine how the judges are going to choose final winners, but I’m certain that they will do a great job. Go check out all the lists at the Cybils blog!

Graphic Novels
Young Adult
Nonfiction Picture Books
MG/YA Nonfiction
Science Fiction and Fantasy
Fiction Picture Books
Middle Grade

The awards will be announced on February 14!