Double Happiness by Nancy Tupper Ling with illustrations by Alina Chau is the definition of the phrase itself. Well, the actual phrase is traditionally used for newlyweds in Chinese culture, or sometimes as a wish for happiness in the present and in the future. But for me, the phrase here means the double happiness of a wonderfully written and beautifully illustrated picture book that stands out on the shelves and will be remembered long after reading.
Gracie and her brother Jake are moving from their "city house / by the trolley tracks, / away from Nai Nai, / Auntie Su, / and Uncle Woo. / Today / we fly away - / and I don't want to go!" But Grandmother has an idea. In her poem she says, "When I was young, / I placed memories / inside a special box. / It was my happiness box. / Always, it was near me. / Together you can make / double happiness." She tells Gracie and Jake to find "four treasures each, / leading from this home / to your new." The poems follow Gracie and Jake as they say their goodbyes, find their treasures and begin the journey to their new home. Jake, who narrates a few poems of his own, is a bundle of energy and colorful action like the dragon that he admires. Looking for treasures for his box, Jake says he will, "keep my dragon eyes / wide open for stuff / along the way."
Chau's illustrations are also filled with double happiness. Delicate both and solid. At times they are brightly colored and richly patterned, other times her watercolors are subtle and like a fading memory. I found myself paging through Double Happiness again and again, poring over every illustration.
After settling into their new house and having a dinner of comfort foods, (with their memory boxes and a picture of the family they left behind on the dinner table) the siblings begin to unpack. As they sort through their memory boxes, they take out their paints and add one more memory to each box. Jake adds a dragon and a train, and Gracie adds a "boy, a girl, / walking in the snow. / each with a box full of memories / tucked under their arms. / They look very, very happy."
Source: Review Copy