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Read a wonderful review of A Bottle of happiness by June Hopper Swain for IBBY Link February 2017.


A Bottle of Happiness, Pippa Goodhart, illus. Ehsan Abdollahi, London: Tiny Owl Publishing, hb. 978 1 9103 2820 0, 2016, £12.99, 28pp. [Picture book, 4–8 years. Keywords: happiness; rich versus poor.]

A Bottle of Happiness

This is a delightful and heart-warming picture book both for the message it carries, that happiness is more precious than possessions, and for its vibrant, innovative illustrations. The people on one side of a mountain work hard and are rich and want to get even richer, while those on the other side of the mountain work hard too but, through no fault of their own, are poor, and have just enough food to eat and clothes to wear if they share things with each other. Pim, a young boy from this group of poor people, journeys from his side of the mountain to the other to find out what life is like for those living there. In their market place he finds that the people have an abundance of everything material but they are not very happy. In exchange for some fruit, Pim agrees to pay a stallholder with what his own people have in abundance: happiness. Back home he collects this in a bottle, along with some laughter, music and love, and takes it back to the stallholder and his people. Their lives are transformed, and now the people on both sides of the mountain share everything with each other and are very, very happy.

A print from A Bottle of Happiness

British-born Pippa Goodhart has written many children’s books, including the prize-winning picture book You Choose (2003) as well as the Winnie the Witch stories (originally created by Valerie Thomas) that she writes under the pen name Laura Owen. Iranian artist Ehsan Abdollahi was inspired by the surroundings, fabrics and clothes of the people of southern Iran when working on the illustrations for this picture book, and the story is brought vividly to life in the vibrant watercolours and clear-cut patchwork patterns that are made even more vibrant and sharp by his skilful use of white throughout. [For an interview with the artist that includes a discussion of this book, see here]

June Hopper Swain



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