age range: 4-8 years
format: picture book
website for Shelley Johannes
A huge dose of joy and a clear reminder to celebrate each day and each other.
A wonderful reflection on enjoying the amazing world and people around us, this book will have readers young and old smiling in recognition.
— School Library Journal
Please tell us about your book.
THIS JOY! is my second author-illustrator picture book, and it’s as joyful as its name implies! It’s a book about a young child who attempts to measure the size of her joy and the depth of her gratitude as she bubbles up with happiness throughout the day. Have you ever felt so alive you wanted to hug the whole world, but your arms weren’t big enough? Have you ever wanted to throw your arms around the treetops, but your tiptoes weren’t tall enough? THIS JOY! explores big feelings and unbridled joy—and finding a way to enthusiastically embrace the gifts each day brings our way.
What inspired you to write this story?
THIS JOY! was inspired by a moment of overwhelming gratitude in my own life. I was heading to my favorite art store to gather supplies to begin the final artwork for my first picture book, MORE THAN SUNNY, when I was overcome by the beauty of the day and the gravity of the dream-come-true moment. I felt so grateful to be alive and doing what I love. Driving down the road, I pictured myself in a field with arms wide open, wanting to embrace the whole world and all its goodness, but found that my arms weren’t big enough to hold it all, and that words weren’t adequate to express the abundance of gratitude in my heart. The only solution was to make a book about it.
It’s often said that art begets art—in this case, it literally did. The joy of working on my first picture book immediately sparked my second one.
Could you share with readers a bit about your writing process for this book?
My creative process is messy and intuitive, working in words and images simultaneously. The first half of the book solidified pretty quickly after that inspirational car ride, but finding my way into the second half took lots of searching, trial-and-error, and play. I was fully immersed in the process early in 2020, which was a perfect time to be pondering the depths of joy and gratitude, and the everyday gifts life gives.
Did this book present any special challenges during the writing process?
The biggest challenge I faced while making this book is the same challenge the girl in the book faces: How do I tangibly communicate this profound feeling that’s bigger than words and beyond my ability to express? I loved that the character and I were on parallel journeys. In the end, metaphor met us when the dictionary ran out.
What topics does your book touch upon that would make it a perfect fit for the classroom?
I love seeing all the creative ways educators use picture books in their classrooms, and I’ve already been so inspired by how schools are using THIS JOY!
THIS JOY! fits wonderfully with SEL books and other books about big feelings. While discussing anger, sadness, worry, frustration or loss—I love the idea of including a book about joy and gratitude! The text is a helpful tool in discussions about trying to describe our indescribably big feelings, and creative ways to express them.
THIS JOY! is also a wonderful companion in discussions about measuring and comprehending the size of the world and the size of our bodies, in both math or social studies settings. And there are so many related crafts to expand the discussion.
In older classrooms, THIS JOY! is a great resource to practice synonyms, similes, and metaphors.
Mostly, I hope it makes lots of people experience a moment of joy exactly when they need it.
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