Operation: Happy: A World War II Story of Courage, Resilience, and an Unbreakable Bond

Zonderkidz. Apr. 2024. 240p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780310159261.
Gr 4-7–Set during the early stages of World War II, this account is told by 12-year-old Jody Zuber and her dog Happy. They come together on Christmas Day 1938 after Happy retires from battle service as a Marine canine. He is losing his eyesight at a time when Jody is starting to see the world for what it really is in her military family. In 1940, her mother is anxious about her father’s posting in Pearl Harbor when the Zubers move to live on Ford Island in barracks housing. Thus begins “Operation: Happy,” a 10-point plan designed to guide Happy through his golden years. This list steadily grows as Jody and Happy weather air raid drills, vaccinations, and, ultimately, the events of December 7, 1941. When all but Sergeant Zuber relocate to San Francisco after the Pearl Harbor attack, Jody does not see her active-duty father until the war’s end. Walsh’s novel depicts the family’s stateside experiences starkly. As Jody’s mom struggles with depression and her sister becomes more distant, Operation: Happy transforms into Jody’s plan to keep the Zuber family together. Part memoir, part historical fiction, this book is a must-read for tweens who are learning about this important piece of U.S. history. This is a poignant coming-of-age tale about military life, family, and friendship. Readers will be inspired by Jody’s effort to put on a brave face and touched by Happy’s love as they journey through difficult times with humor and tears.
VERDICT Fans of Jenni L. Walsh will not let this book sit on library shelves for long.

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