Smile / Cry (Tania McCartney, illus by Jess Racklyeft, EK Books)
Billed as a ‘beginner’s book of feelings’, this flip-over picture book is cleverly designed to be read from either the ‘Smile’ or the ‘Cry’ cover first. It doesn’t matter which one because the story meets in the middle. Both sections follow piglet, bunny and cat as they go about their day explaining what gladdens their hearts or alternatively, what makes them tearful. Joyful activities include snuggling under a blanket, being tickled by feathers, dressing up in silly costumes and preparing to eat a cake. Alternatively, unhappy experiences include a dollop of fallen ice-cream, a popped balloon, a farewell to a friend or an inability to join in the dancing because your tutu is in the wash. Jess Racklyeft’s sweet illustrations are rendered in soft pastel watercolours, with gentle tones suitable for a nursery, and the characters look like cuddly soft toys. Tania McCartney is canny enough to explore the subtle nuances of emotion in her text: for instance, that crying doesn’t necessarily mean one’s sad and tears can also represent an emotional reaction to beauty—such as witnessing the spectacle of a rainbow. Similarly, a smile can be more like a grimace, after accidentally smashing a vase. Smile/Cry is targeted at toddlers and pre-schoolers, and adults can easily use the book as a springboard to ask children about their own ideas of what makes them laugh or cry.
Thuy On is a Melbourne-based reviewer and books editor of the Big Issue