Book Review: The Short and Incredibly Happy Life of Riley By Colin Thompson

 

The Short and Incredibly Happy Life of Riley

Given that today is International Day of Happiness, we thought we’d feature an all-time favourite book on happiness: The Short and Incredibly Happy Life of Riley is an absolute gem of a story and one that is loved by adults and children alike. This book is a great reminder that sometimes less is more.

Summary

The Short and Incredibly Happy Life of Riley won the Children’s Book Council of Australia, Picture Book of the Year award in 2005. It tells the story of a rat named Riley, who is simply, very happy, and it compares the happiness of Riley to the dissatisfaction of most people. It’s beautiful in its truth and simplicity.

Why I love it:

The comparison between Riley and people is one that Riley wins, hands down and the final line of the book “Release your inner Riley” is something I say to myself quite regularly to remind myself of what’s truly important. I love this book because sometimes the race of life can cloud your thinking and sometimes a reminder to be more like a rat is exactly what we need to bring back clarity.

Themes to discuss with your child:

The ongoing theme throughout The Short and Incredibly Happy Life of Riley is ‘happiness’ and how to achieve it. The book talks about how people are constantly striving and wishing for things they don’t have, thinking that happiness lies somewhere within that ever-moving target.

Riley, the rat, doesn’t ever wish for more than he already has and he is truly happy.

What an incredible topic to discuss with your child. What an incredible opportunity to focus on the things we genuinely need in order to be happy and take focus away from the clutter of ‘wants’.

This book is also an excellent opportunity to discuss self-acceptance (including body-image – in an age-appropriate way) and self-love.

Questions to ask your child:

Before reading:

  • What do you think this book might be about?
  • Do you think this is a fiction book (a story) or a non-fiction book (facts)?
  • What emotion do you think the man on the front cover is feeling?
  • What do you think the rat (on the cover) is doing?
  • Rats are not really bigger than people, so why do you think the illustrator has drawn the rat larger than the man?

After reading:

  • Now that we have read the story, why do you think the illustrator drew Riley larger than the man on the front cover?
  • How does this book make you feel?
  • What do you think this book is trying to tell you?
  • What are three things Riley needed in order to be happy?
  • What are three things you need in order to be happy?
  • Would you rather be like Riley or the man? Tell me why.
  • On one page of the story, it talks about how people shouldn’t be given sticks with pointy ends because they stick them into each other; what do you think this means?
  • The last line of the story is “Release your inner Riley”; what do you think this means?
  • What do you think you could do to ‘release your inner Riley’?

 

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