Every once in a while a children’s book comes along that both offers young listeners an empowering new concept and raises equally important questions for adult readers. Ripple’s Effect, written by happiness experts Shawn Achor and Amy Blankson, charmingly illustrated by Cecilia Rebora, and published by Little Pickle Press, is one of those books. On the face of it, this is a simple little story about a dolphin, Ripple, who faces shark bullies. By working with other aquarium denizens and using humor and creativity, Ripple makes friends of the bullies and takes charge of her own happiness.
It’s a story children will love, and the message, that we all have the tools within us to meet many of life’s challenges, is good. But as a parent, I found Ripple’s Effect raising more questions than answers. I’ve always believed that one of my primary responsibilities was seeing to it that my son had a safe, creative, and above all happy childhood. That belief has shaped my life for the last seventeen years. In the months before I had my son, it occurred to me that my happiness–or lack thereof–would determine the emotional world in which my son lived a good part of his life. As a woman who had battled depression for years–and who from time to time entertained thoughts of suicide–this was both terrifying and daunting. How could I create a world in which my son could be happy if I didn’t know how to be happy myself?
The irony was that while I had pretty much given up on the idea of happiness for myself, I wanted it more than anything for my son. And so I started to make choices not for my own happiness, but for his. I ended several damaging relationships that I had thought I couldn’t live without. I left Los Angeles and moved to a small town in Oregon, close to some supportive family and friends, where the cost of living was low enough that I could manage our expenses. I built a business doing freelance writing, design, and illustration, initially as a way of bridging the gap until I could find a “real” job. It only gradually came to me that my new way of working provided me the time I needed to develop creative talents I had been suppressing for years.
And then one day it dawned on me that in seeking my son’s happiness, I had found my own. Like Ripple, I had discovered that I held the secret of my own happiness in my own hands. For me, that included life changes, medication from time to time, and dealing with physical and emotional issues that had contributed to my depression in the first place. And all that is good.
But it makes reading “Ripple” a thought-provoking experience for me. Ripple is up against some real problems. Bullies are real. And while teaching children tactics for dealing with them successfully is a very good thing, I found myself wondering if maybe Ripple wasn’t being made responsible for more than she should have been. I read the stories about children who die as a result of bullying and I want not to challenge them to make their own happiness, but to wrap them in my arms and keep them safe until they’re strong enough to face their lives again. Have I been wrong in that? Have I, in wanting to give my son a safe and happy home, deprived him of the opportunity to learn how to use his own power to find his own happiness? I don’t know.
If Ripple’s Effect is a children’s story about facing down childhood’s challenges, it’s a parents’ story that cuts to the heart of parenting. How do we keep our children safe and at the same time provide them with the confidence, tools, and freedom to discover their own power? Ripple’s Effect may provide children with answers; for parents, it offers only the biggest question of all–and one we much each, in the end, answer for ourselves. It’s a book well worth reading.
For the month of November save 30% on your entire order when you purchase Ripple’s. Effect. Just use code LPPRipple12 at check-out.
As you probably know, this post is part of a blog book tour introducing Ripple to the world–think of it as sort of a round-robin of baby showers or something. If you’d like to learn more about Ripple and the nice folks who made her possible, you can visit the blogs from previous tour stops–or follow the blog tour by visiting the blog hosts day by day. Here’s a list of the blog tour stops:
- 11/5 – Righteous Bacon
- 11/6 – Red White & Grew
- 11/7 – Blood-Red Pencil
- 11/8 – Magic Dog Press
- 11/9 – Michelle Pannell
- 11/12 – Leslea Tash
- Nancy Williams
- 11/13 – Moms Get Real
- 11/14 – Putting Pen to Paper
- 11/15 – Be Positive Mom
- 11/16 – Dainty Mom
And once all that’s over, check out some of Little Pickle Press’ other online homes, as well as some of their marvelous, amazing, always-thought-provoking books. Here’s a little link list for you: