Happy Birthday Coco by Oneones is a picture book about a year in the life of Coco, who turns one at the start of the story. Coco is a small dog. We never see her human companions, but they clearly value Coco's presence in their lives.
This book is a gorgeous production with few words, thick pages, and soft colors. It includes occasional sheer overlay pages to add visual interest and complexity. For example, a translucent page with a faint net pattern overlays a picture of Coco playing with a tennis ball. A page showing the cage that Coco came home in has shiny reflective bars, like very narrow mirrors. Another page includes a cut-out of a word that can be read backwards or forwards. It's like the author is playing with the medium of picture book, just as Coco plays with balls.
The author is a graphic artist, and the book is more a visual delight than a narrative story. Coco's year passes as a series of incidents. She makes a friend, gets into trouble, loses her friend, plays in the snow, and goes for walks. The illustrations frequently reflect the mood of what's going on with Coco. For instance, there's an incident where Coco is yelled for misbehaving.
"Usually Coco likes to go for walks. After shouting, though, she just sits and looks."
The background is gray here,like a fog, and we can see clearly that Coco is sad. Coco is also sad when her friend goes away (presumably dying, though this is left vague). It's surprisingly profound for a picture book with so few words.
Overall, I found this to be an excellent, quiet sort of book. Happy Birthday Coco is well-presented, with subtle but meaningful messages about friendship and loss, and getting into trouble but still being loved. The book concludes "Coco will have many more sweet dreams, and many more friends, and many more happy birthdays." I certainly hope so.
Book: Happy Birthday Coco
Publisher: Kane/Miller Book Publishers
Original Publication Date: September 2006
Age Range: All ages (picture book)
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
Other Blog Reviews: Big A little a