A little girl called Fern grows concerned after noticing that her beloved Nanna has stopped smiling. What could be the matter? Fern’s mum explains that the ‘whoosh’ of joy has gone out of Nanna’s life. Fern sets off to capture this elusive whoosh and cheer her Nanna back up.
Fern’s search for joy is beautifully captured through childlike language and cadence as she grasps at joy in a puppy’s bounce, a baby’s chuckle and the sun’s sparkle.
The shift from joyful to depressed Nanna is striking: in the turn of a page colour is drained from the room, plants have died, pictures no longer hang straight on living-room walls. Nanna’s clothes move from pink to grey, she no longer wears her glasses, and her hair is unkempt.
Although Fern couldn’t catch joy in her bag, it tumbles out of her mouth as she tells the story of her day and Nanna returns to her old, mirth-filled, cake baking self. It is truly gratifying to see Fern and her Nanna joyfully whooshing about the park together. Their contentedness is palpable in a glorious picnic spread.
Joy is a book about the importance of relationships between young and old, and the value of human connection and storytelling. On these fronts it is a tremendous, joyful, success. It is also a book about depression, and it treads a fine line here. It is possible to come away from Joy thinking that Nanna’s depression was cured by Fern. Of course, adults know that children are not responsible for – or able to – healing another person’s depression. Even the most joyful and loving child cannot cure a disease. Joy is a wonderful book to open this discussion with.