Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Get Happy

Get Happy

Mary Amato
For ages 12 and up
Egmont, 2014   ISBN: 978-1606845226

Minerva, with her friend Fin’s help, has been giving her mother hints for months. She wants a ukulele for her sixteenth birthday; in fact she wants a ukulele so much that it is driving her crazy. On Minerva’s birthday morning the decorations are there, the cinnamon roll with a candle in it is there, the birthday song is sung, and the gift Minerva’s mother gives her is not a ukulele. It is a sweater that Minerva does not like. At all. This is how it is with Minerva and her mother. She tells her mother what she wants, and her mother gives her what she, her mother, wants to give her.

   Minerva is leaving the house, wearing the sweater, when the FedEx guy brings her a package. The sender’s initials are K.C., the same initials as Minerva’s father, who left when Minerva was two and who has been absent from her life ever since. After prevaricating for hours, Minerva finally opens the package. In it is a beautiful silver seahorse pendent on a black silk cord. It is gorgeous, but Minerva refuses to wear it. She wants nothing to do with her father.

   After school, Minerva and Fin go to an audition. Fin really wants to try to get a job being a Get Happy person, a children’s birthday party entertainer. In the elevator on their way up to the Get Happy office, the friends meet Hayes Martinelli, a boy from school, who ends up auditioning with them. All three of them, along with a girl called Cassie Lott, get jobs working for Get Happy. Cassie is beautiful, charming and so perfect that she is irritating.

   Minerva is not looking forward to being a Get Happy girl, and the fact that her mermaid costume looks awful does not endear her to the job. Still, with her earnings she will finally be able to get the ukulele that she wants. Though she is not the hit that Cassie is, Minerva does manage to make one little birthday girl happy, and that makes her feel pretty good.

  Though making friends with Hayes and earning money does make Minerva feel somewhat content with her life, she cannot forget about her father. She does not want to care about him, and yet she does, and she starts trying to find out who he is. She learns that his real name is Keanu Choy, and that he is from Hawaii. He is a scientist who is working at the local aquarium, and he founded the Save Our Seahorses Project. That would explain why he gave her a seahorse pendent. Minerva tries so hard not to think about him, not to care, but she cannot forget all those years that she spent thinking that her father left because he did not love her, that he forgot all about her.

   In this sometimes painful book the author explores how one family deals with hurtful things. We see how Minerva’s mother decides that the best way to protect her child is to bury the past (and the truth) as completely as she can. She never thinks about what could happen if the truth surfaces, until it is too late.

   One of the wonderful things about this story is that, in addition to the main storyline, there is also the story of Minerva’s musical journey, which is sweet, poignant and funny. Readers may start wishing that they had a ukulele of their own to strum. For readers who are ukulele players, the author provides us with the songs Minerva writes as she comes to terms with her past.