'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Monday 22 March 2010

Review: The Short and Incredibly Happy Life of Riley

Title: The Short and Incredibly Happy Life of Riley

Author: Colin Thompson

Illustrator: Amy Lissiat

Publisher: Lothian Children's Books, A$

Format: Hardcover

Language: English

ISBN: 0734408064

For ages: 4 – 7

Type: Picture Book

About: Riley was born happy. Content with just food, shelter and family, with the little luxury of a stick to scratch his back, he remains unaware that life could be anything other than perfect.

Yet, as a rat, Riley’s lifespan is only very short.

Humans, on the other hand, analyse themselves and others around them, wanting to make sure they have the very best in gadgets, friends, holidays and food. They want everything.

People live in this state of unhappiness for a long time.

The Short and Incredibly Happy Life of Riley is shown as a cheerful picture book with an upbeat message. Yet it tells us that we are never happy with what we have, that we become depressed at looking in the mirror and “fall in love all over the place”.

How can this be positive? Perhaps we have become so accustomed to reading stories filled with nothing but happiness, never daring to mention that our lives aren’t perfect, that this book’s methods are at times a little confronting.

Thompson is clearly attempting to challenge children’s way of thinking. He does not assume they are oblivious to these facts of life, choosing to address rather than ignore them. And he reaches a positive and meaningful point, a worthwhile message for both children and adults.

The Short and Incredibly Happy Life of Riley won the 2005 CBC Picture Book of the Year.

- this review by Megan Blandford of Writing Out Loud

Author website

Illustrator website

This book can be bought online