The Happy Book, my new picture book from Bloomsbury was published on May 3. I only wrote it 6 years ago, it's only 48 words long, but it's out there at last. Yaay!
Back in 2005, I came across an old Swedish proverb:
'Fear less, hope more,
Whine less, breathe more,
Talk less, say more,
Hate less, love more
And all good things will be yours.''
I really liked both what it was saying and how it was saying it, and decided to play around with the concept, with young children in mind, to see if I could come up with a picture book.
I originally called it 'Eat less, breathe more' and here's some of the lines I considered (and, thankfully, rejected!) along the way:
'Be bossy less, listen more,
Shrivel up less, dance more,
Couch potato less, read more...'
But, apart from not feeling right on re-reading, they didn't have the rhythm I wanted. I wanted it to sing.
So I tried rhyme:
'Take less, make more,
Scare less, dare more...'
but that was too limiting. It was meaning that was most important, not structure.
Then I noticed that, by some sort of happy coincidence, a lot of the lines I'd come up with were starting with the same letter, so I decided to play around with that idea. That way I'd have structure and rhythm, but still have room to say what I really wanted about the important things in life.
Some that didn't make the cut were:
'Whine less, whistle more,
Hate less, hug more,
Pout less, paint more,
Boo-hoo less, beam more,
Zoom less, zig-zag more...'
But I found lots I did like. It was saying things I believed in, and it was starting to trip off the tongue well too.
I tried it out on people, and it seemed to strike a chord. I gave copies to my writers group and one of them, not always the cheeriest of souls, told me some time later, 'It's pinned up on my fridge, I read it every morning, try to live it every day, and my life's improved no end!'
Then my daughter asked if she could have it read it at her wedding - a proud moment for a proud papa.
A friend, recently passed away, asked for it to be read at her memorial service, too.
It took two years for The Happy Book to find a publisher, and another four to get it out there, but Caroline Uff's illustrations are joyful, colourful, warm and vibrant. And I'm a Happy Bunny!
Write Away says: It's a manifesto for life. 'Worry less, wonder more.' Absolutely, Malachy. Thank you. :-)
Publisher's Weekly says: Provides a roadmap to a less fraught home life...'
(In the US it's published as Get Happy by Walker Books)