These lighthearted books will help your kids start off every day with a smile and a laugh.

Cockatoo, Too

By Bethanie Deeney Murguia; Little Bee Books; 32 pages; $17.99

Are there any happier backdrops than lush tropical foliage, colorful exotic flowers and wide-eyed cockatoos? I think not!

Bethanie Deeney Murguia’s fascination with word play led her to create this jungle romp with just a few words — “Cocatoo toucan tutu can-can, can you?” says the book, Cockatoo, Too.

The tale begins when our sheepish cockatoo bird friend meets another just like him, and then they encounter “Two cockatoo tutus, too?,” which translates to two more cockatoos donned in tutus. The new birds see that the first two are sad, so they gift them with two orange tutus.

But soon, a bevy of toucans with vivid orange beaks and fluffy yellow tutus arrives to upstage them.

Eventually, all the tropical birds join to cancan. Hilariously, the last question is “Can-can you?,” to which a little bird walks off the page and says, “Too, too much.”

Murguia’s last beautifully tropical page spread features many other birds — even owls — dancing. This book is pure joy that is fun to read aloud.

The Happiest Book Ever!

By Bob Shea; Disney/Hyperion; 32 pages; $16.99

A happy book should have a sunny yellow cover with a striped giraffe holding ice cream cones.

Bob Shea’s book, The Happiest Book Ever!, starts with a frowny frog and a carrot cake that are made happier by chanting “Yellow bo-bellow!” But even after the chanting, the frog is still frowny.

Kids can shake the book to try to make the frog smile; they can tell it jokes, but eventually they realize he’s OK just the way he is (with a new blue balloon in hand).

With collage-like sketches and a real frog photo, Shea’s “cwazy” picture book is full of phrases like “​Thwipp!” and “Whoop-de-do!” plus “a sun with a new haircut and snazzy glasses!” and “a whale with good news.”

Hug This Book!

By Barney Saltzberg; illustrated by Fred Benaglia; Phaidon Press; 32 books; $16.95

The opening flap of Barney Saltzberg’s rhyming ode to books, Hug This Book!, reads: “You can spin and twirl and dance with this book. You can take your book to lunch. Just do not try to feed it. ... You can kiss and hug and smell this book. That might sound sort of silly. You can wrap this book in a sweater, if it ever gets too chilly.”

It’s a reminder that books are to be revered and loved.

Starring a group of rounded children with different-colored faces (like lime green, red and blue), the retro 1960s-looking artwork lends a timeless appeal that harkens back to the Sesame Street and Dr. Seuss days of children’s literature.


By Christopher Silas Neal; Candlewick Press; 32 pages; $15.99

Although we all want to be happy, everyone knows happiness comes and goes.

With Everyone, debut author Christopher Silas Neal reminds young readers that everyone — including animals in the woods and neighbors in their homes nearby — feels all different kinds of emotions, such as “frustrated, frazzled, fed up, bonkers, batty, bananas.”

The little boy in the book experiences several emotions, and he eventually realizes that a cry is OK and that happiness grows.

Neal’s vintage illustrations are different shades of blue, white and black. They include plenty of flowers with changing expressions and people hugging and sharing emotions. Everyone is a thoughtful means to let youngsters know they’re not alone in their feelings, a journey that ends happily.

— Lee Littlewood writes the Kids’ Home Library column for Creators. The San Diego wife and mom’s pure love of children’s literature helps her stay interested in words and pictures meant for tots to teens. Click here to contact her, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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