Raina’s (Un) Happy Birthday is a Mom’s Choice Awards® Gold Recipient and a Reader Views LITERARY AWARDS HONOREE FOR 2018-2019.
Not all kids love hugs, and one little girl learns that’s it’s OK to speak up about it in Esmail’s debut picture book with watercolor images by Cooke.
Raina doesn’t like celebrating birthdays, and instead of getting excited when her mother mentions gifts she might get, “her stomach is in knots.” Specifically, Raina isn’t comfortable with her family members’ hugs and kisses on such occasions. Old Pa gives her a close hug and his bristly beard pokes her face, and a large uncle’s squeeze makes her feel embarrassed. Auntie’s touch makes Raina think of tentacles, and a cousin with a runny nose is told to give Raina a kiss. It’s all too much, and she yells that she hates her “unhappy birthdays.” Alone in her room, she speaks to her stuffed rabbit, who encourages her to tell the truth because her own feelings matter. She finds more comfortable ways to express love to her relatives, and this may inspire similarly sensitive readers to ask others to meet them on their own terms. Esmail offers a protagonist with whom cautious youngsters will identify, and the soft pastels of the watercolors create a comforting tone. Cooke also deftly creates unpleasant images from Raina’s imagination that readers won’t find threatening.
An excellent book for sensitive young readers.
- Kirkus Reviews
Follow Raina and her beloved stuffie, Lola, on their profound journey from birthday jitters to cake-filled happiness. Celebrate the courage of one little girl's conviction to decide for herself when to speak up. This relevant and important book shouts YES to sharing one's truth. Brava to author Britta Stromeyer Esmail for empowering and elevating girls and their grown-ups.
—Andrea Alban, author of The Happiness Tree and Anya's War
Beautifully illustrated and eloquently written, Raina's (Un) Happy Birthday shows that girls, whatever age they may be, have the power to choose how they show and receive love. This is a powerful message for girls and boys and everyone who cares for them.
—Loung Ung, author of Lucky Child and Lulu in the Sky
A magical story. With extraordinary insight, tenderness, and love, Britta Stromeyer Esmail delivers a timely and empowering message—the importance of voice—to our children and youth. It takes courage for a little one to speak out and stand up to pressure. Raina's (Un) Happy Birthdayprovides an example of how to do just that without hurting the feelings of those you love. It's a lesson that all of us—young and old—can benefit from. I can't wait to share this beautifully told and illustrated story with my granddaughters!
—April Christofferson, best-selling author of Buffalo Medicine