Somehow I neglected to review Happyface by Stephen Emond after I read it this summer, which is really a shame since it is such a good book and worthy of a shout-out. To begin with I should tell you that I have placed this book on my 2011 Mock Printz reading list. Students are just now starting to make their way through that list so I don't really have any feedback from others about this book yet. You will have to be satisfied with my thoughts for now.
The style of the book defies categorization. One reviewer called it an illustrated diary, which seems to be just about the best description I've heard so that's what I will call it, too. This illustrated diary belongs to Happyface, an otherwise unnamed sophomore boy, who is trying to make his way in the world while his family is crumbling. After a move across town, Happyface tries on a new persona with his new classmates, one of a carefree, happy boy who won't be fazed by anything, though inside he is anything but happy. This persona intrigues and mystifies his new friends but also leads to misunderstandings and hurt feelings as Happyface tries to hide information about his past. All of this is revealed in the illustrated diary which is funny, sad, and insightful in turn.
I think that teen readers will be able to relate to Happyface's dilemma and to his hidden insecurities. The ending is very satisfying and it shows us the capacity teens have to show compassion and forgiveness.
Comic illustrator Stephen Emond's drawings in this book are amazing. Many of the drawings are simple line sketches where others are fully shaded and very detailed illustrations. One is left with the feeling that this diary is exactly what one would expect a very artistic boy to possess. Readers are let in on the "mind of a teen-age boy" and you will immediately recognize that Emond got it "just right."
In the acknowledgment section at the end of the book Emond shows us the process he went through to create the pages with the combination of handwriting and illustrations. I found that to be fascinating and instructive. I definitely want to read/see more from this author/illustrator and I recommend that you do the same.