My Heart Fills with Happiness

illus. by Julie Flett. 24p. Orca. 2016. Tr $9.95. ISBN 9781459809574.
RedReviewStarToddler-PreS—Joyful and tender, this board book celebrates the activities that bring gladness through family and cultural connections. On one spread, three children wait in front of the oven in a modern kitchen ("My heart fills with happiness when…I smell bannock baking in the oven."). The patterns on their clothing are echoed in the kitchen textiles, creating a sense of belonging and completeness. Flett's quietly powerful gouache and digital collage illustrations emphasize the relationships between people through small gestures and touches; the bold colors and simplified compositions increase the impact by stripping away all that is unnecessary. Other things that bring happiness include holding hands, seeing the face of a loved one, singing, drumming, feeling the sun's rays, and listening to stories. All the people appear to be indigenous, although specific groups are not mentioned. The book is dedicated to "former Indian Residential School students and their families." The author and illustrator are strongly connected to their Canadian Aboriginal communities, and the sweet family story has universal appeal.
VERDICT A first purchase for all libraries.

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