Barry Jonsberg, H is for Happiness, Allen & Unwin, January 2020, 256 pp., RRP $16.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781760527402
H is for Happiness is a film tie-in edition of Barry Jonsberg’s My Life as an Alphabet, originally published in 2013.
I regularly recommend My Life as an Alphabet to students in the high-school library where I work. It’s particularly suitable for the more reluctant reader because of its easy-to-read style of writing and shortish chapters.
Candice Phee is the twelve-year-old narrator. She has been set an English assignment, where she must write a paragraph about herself for every letter of the alphabet; twenty-six paragraphs in total; A-Z.
Candice is ‘unusual’ but doesn’t accept that she may be ‘on the spectrum’ even though she has her own seat in the library, and the librarians allow her to eat her lunch there, ‘despite the rules saying it’s forbidden’. She wears her heart on her sleeve and takes everything literally which leads to a lot of very funny incidents and misunderstandings. She is determined to fix all her friends’ and family’s problems and make sure they are all happy. Candice Phee is quite indomitable and totally loveable.
Jonsberg has used a light touch to deal with some hefty issues: cot-death, depression and bullying. However, there are many laugh-out-loud moments, and when you finish this book, you’ll being feeling positive about the world, and wishing there were more people like Candice Phee living in it. As her Rich Uncle Brian says, “You sing your own song and you dance your own dance,” which is good advice for us all.
The publisher recommends this book for ages 10-13.
Reviewed by Gaby Meares