Originally published in Portuguese in 2011, Stella Dreis’s picture book has been translated into English by British writer and The Ultimate Book Guide editor, Daniel Hahn.
Three miserable women, Miss Whimper, Miss Grouch and Miss Stern cannot work out why on earth their neighbour Miss Jolly is so unrelentingly joyful. Dreis has a fabulously off-beat sense of humour, which finds her hapless trio seeking contentment in the most ludicrous ways. ‘”That’s it!” cried Miss Stern, “that’s the trick! It’s so clever! We need hats made of food! We’ll be happy forever!”’
There are some wonderful rhymes in this book, and a unique sense of rhythm which makes it a real pleasure to read aloud. There are also a few lines where the scansion is just unnatural and clumsy. The illustrations are clever, witty and sophisticated – perhaps too sophisticated for some young children’s taste. This tale is likely to be a hit with their parents, though, some of whom might even sympathise with the wretched neighbours and their increasingly desperate measures. Altogether, it’s a memorable, eccentric and wildly original book. And the closing lines are as good as any I know: ‘”We did it! We did it!” Their sadness had passed/ And they laughed, and they laughed, and were happy at last.’