Thrive Global regular Will Jelbert is no stranger to publishing with his bestselling book, The Happiness animal — or HA — currently # 1 in mental health, emotions, parenting and relationships and inner child categories on Amazon. Don’t be fooled by its cover: this is an adults only book splicing dark stories of addiction, sex, anxiety and suffering with frequent use of Parental Advisory language. But when Will teamed up with Arizona artist and illustrator (and HA fan) Jamie Heusinkveld, their partnership gave gave birth to five illustrated children’s books.
The first book in the series, which tells the story of Puptrick, a dog who tells a lie but then learns to bark truthfully, was released on Amazon this week. The concept of the series is to use five ‘happiness animals’; to represent the five ‘happiness muscles’ that when exercised lead to greater feelings of connection and well being: Honesty manifests as a dog in the first book. In the second, a dolphin splashes and blows its kindness muscle to inspire empathy. Tolerance of others and curiosity are slippery ice navigated by a penguin who overcomes mistrust of the ‘white penguin’ and learns to keep his cool with other penguins. Jamie and Will went down under to find their awareness animal: The wide-eyed Koala learns just how much is enough eucalyptus to eat and what is too much. The final character in the The Happiness Animals series, Lion takes the lead in inspiring courage to face a challenge and to show up for others.
‘Many people have commented that they thought The Happiness Animal was a children’s book [because of the cover and the title], and many people have suggested I write a children’s book. When I heard this enough times, I paid attention. I knew Jamie was the right person to partner with on this project as we both share the same passion for the concepts of the five happiness muscles. As well as being an extremely talented visual artist and illustrator, perhaps most importantly of all Jamie is a mother of two children.
Both Will and Jamie have had their fair share of mental health issues that they’ve had to accept and address to survive, so sharing the importance of exercise for mental wellness has deep meaning for them:
‘The younger we can start to build exercise of these five happiness muscles into our lives, the more resilient and happier we can be from childhood into old age. Let’s encourage our children to be honest, kind, full of wonder, aware, and courageous. Of course we want children to enjoy the stories and to make them visually memorable, but that’s the message behind each one.’ said Will.
Jamie adds, ‘Through age appropriate media, children can understand complex moral concepts. These stories will assist in accomplishing just that. In my parenting experience, a fantastic age to start talking to/teaching children about their happiness muscles is between the ages of 4 to 8. That’s exactly the age group we hope this series of animal tales will appeal to. However, it’s never too early or too late to begin!