cover image Alicia's Happy Day

Alicia's Happy Day

Meg Starr. Star Bright Books, $15.95 (36pp) ISBN 978-1-887734-85-1

""May you have a day that's twirly-swirly,"" begins the string of well-wishing in Starr's upbeat narrative. Readers soon discover (via a message in skywriting) that it's Alicia's birthday, and as she strolls through the barrio with her mother, everyone and everything is in tune with her happiness. ""May you hear salsa and start to dance"" accompanies husband-and-wife team Hu and Van Wright's (Mei-Mei Loves the Morning) watercolor spread of Alicia coquettishly striking a pose to the music pouring out of a storefront. The energy of the painting conveys an urban hum and a welcoming neighborhood, peopled with smiling passersby. Even the taxicab drivers wave hello, and the traffic signal switches to ""Walk"" just when Alicia wants to cross. Hugs from the family and a fluffy pink cake await her at the bakery: ""All of us, we're all for you-that's why we sing happy birthday to you!"" The barrio will be an exotic destination for many readers (one of Alicia's fans, a street vendor who sells oranges, gives the delighted girl ""a ribbon of peel""), and Hu and Van Wright make the journey inviting by combining a fluid realism with a festive, pastel palette. Alicia herself makes a winning tour guide-her wavy, waist-length hair gives her the aura of a fairy tale princess, and her bright eyes and warm smile should make an instant connection with readers of all backgrounds. Ages 3-8. (Jan.)