Operation: Happy

A World War II Story of Courage, Resilience, and an Unbreakable Bond

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Pub Date 2 Apr 2024 | Archive Date 8 Apr 2024

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As World War II enters her backyard, a young girl tries to cope with the war and keep her family together by completing a bucket list with her best friend: her dog Happy. Featuring a dog’s POV and inspired by real-life experiences of a young Pearl Harbor survivor, this historical middle-grade novel will inspire readers 8-12 to find courage in any situation.

It’s 1940, and Jody is moving with her military family yet again—this time to a small naval base in Pearl Harbor. She’s always created a “top ten” list for each new home to help her adjust, and with Hawaii being so beautiful and her loyal dog Happy by her side, it’s easy to find things to add.

But Jody’s mom is convinced the island is dangerous and starts constantly practicing first aid. Jody also learns that Happy is getting older and beginning to slow down. To cope, she makes a list of fun things they can do together. “Operation: Happy” gives her something to focus on beyond the scary new experiences, like air raid drills and Yellow Fever vaccinations.

Before long, everyone’s worst fears come true: Pearl Harbor is attacked. In the aftermath, Jody’s father must stay behind as the rest of the family is evacuated, and Jody promises him she will keep everyone together. But things are hard in San Francisco, where she feels like an outsider. Worse, her mother has become depressed, and Jody worries she and her sister will have to go to an orphanage. With Happy by her side, Jody hatches a brave plan to keep the family safe … Will Operation: Happy see them through?

Operation: Happy is:

  • perfect for fans of historical fiction as well as animal lovers
  • a moving and historically accurate novel inspired by true events
  • ideal for readers of Kimberly Brubaker Bradley and Kate DiCamillo

As World War II enters her backyard, a young girl tries to cope with the war and keep her family together by completing a bucket list with her best friend: her dog Happy. Featuring a dog’s POV and...

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ISBN 9780310159261
PRICE US$18.99 (USD)

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Featured Reviews

Book Review 📚
Operation: Happy by Jenni L. Walsh - 4.5/5 ⭐

Couldn't put it down. Both me and my son utterly devoured this book in a single day. It was so beautifully written, great story line and a big fluffy dog to help get you through!

The whole book has a strong story around the unfortunate events of Pearl Harbour. It's quite clear to see that the introduction of "Happy" our big, friendly dog, is to ease the pain and unsettling of theme based around Pearl Harbour. It's hard to think of real life history being so strong and heartbreaking but Walsh put it into words to beautifully that it not only becomes a history lesson but also the lesson in love and friendship.

My son has nonstop pestered me for a dog since reading this book (6 days ago!) And the emotional soul that he is, definitely had a cry a quite a few of the scenes. There's great description and detail and the story line was so well written. I can't wait to see what Walsh does next.

Thank you to NetGalley and Zonderkidz for allowing me to read this ARC - this is an HONEST review from my own personal opinion.

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Operation Happy by Jenni L Walsh is an inspiring historical children’s novel that I read in just one sitting. It is perfect for ages eight to twelve years, although anyone who loves history would enjoy this book.
The book begins in 1938 but it’s main focus is the terrible events of Pearl Harbour in December 1941. The whole book revolves around this date. The action is seen through the eyes of marine dog Happy, and the daughter of a marine, Jody, whose father is posted to Pearl Harbour in 1940.
This is a powerful read as the war is presented through the eyes of a child. It is written in a way that young readers can understand without absolutely terrifying them. There is just enough detail without being too graphic.
Happy is retired from active marine life when he is given to Jody one Christmas. Happy is losing his 20 20 vision and growing older. His name is very apt. “It’s … near impossible not to look at you [Happy] and smile.” He is a loyal dog whose nature is happy. “It feels like an eternity has passed between saying goodbye to Gordon and hello to Jody.”
Happy takes his responsibilities very seriously. Jenni Walsh has the skill to put herself in Happy’s shoes as we see some events through his eyes. We learn how he is guided by his nose. He can smell fear and he can smell happiness. He also has the ability to instinctively know when something is wrong.
As Happy grows older, Jody wants to make the most of the time he has left. “It’ll be our Happy List, and we’ll make the most of the time we have left together.” Happy’s List also saves his family as it gives Jody something to focus on during the dark days.
The novel is in two parts – leading up to Pearl Harbour and the immediate aftermath; and as refugees in San Fransisco whilst their father remains behind in Pearl Harbour. We witness how hard it is on the family, especially as the mother falls apart. It is up to Jody to keep her family together.
Despite the difficult themes, there are moments of humor. Happy is a big dog, a mixture of several large breeds including Husky. As he gets on a bus, we ‘see’ life as Happy sees it. “He grins. The driver startles. He grins with a little less teeth. That does the trick.” The reader needs this humor to break up the narrative of war.
It is important to realise that not all Japanese were responsible for Pearl Harbour – certainly not the young Japanese maid nor the Japanese American schoolgirl who was interned with her family, after the event.
Operation Happy was a powerful read. It was an inspiring read. It is a book that all children should read in order to know what happened during World War II. I believe it should be part of the English National Curriculum.
I thoroughly enjoyed Operation Happy and I will leave you with my favourite quote:
“As a family that moves a lot, home isn’t a destination, home is wherever we are together.” Wow! So powerful.
I received a free copy via Net Galley. A favourable review was not required. All opinions are my own.

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Oh, my goodness, I just couldn’t put it down. Completely and utterly absorbed in this captivating story. I love historical fiction, yet this story is the first I’ve read of World War II set outside Great Britain.

Happy is a retired Marine dog, re-homed upon his retirement, with a fellow marine family at the time of Pearl Harbour. Happy spends his days with Jody the youngest member of the Zuber Family, playing or waiting for outside the onsite school house. Happy recalls his role has a serving marine and puts in place the same ethos in his role within the Zuber Family. But, when Pearl Harbour is struck and the family separated, it’s Jody and Happy that serve to protect and care for the family.

It’s a moving story of resilience, courage and friendship, which gives an insight into life for young Jody at the time, just prior to and following the Pearl Harbour air strikes. Jody, based on a real life character and her experiences, is a brave and determined “marine” that you can’t help but wish to succeed. Beautifully written with heart and compassion, Operation:Happy will be a fabulous read for any animal lover, fan of historical fiction and a great resource for schools.

Thank you to NetGalley and Zonderkidz for the opportunity to read this fabulous book ahead of publication.

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A beautiful story, based on the true experiences of a girl and her dog. Living on Ford island in Oahu when Pearl Harbor was bombed would be unbelievably traumatizing.
If your dad, your hero, was heavily involved - it would make it even harder. Having to move away and leave him there- would add stress and emotion to everyone involved.
It does. Her mom is there with her physically only, her sister is dealing with her own worries- it is up to Jody and her sidekick Happy to keep them going.
Everyone needs a sidekick who knows and understand them. For Jody- it's her dog. For Happy- it's his girl. The dual POV's add such a sweet touch.
This is written in a gentle way for younger friends to understand the horrors of war on a level that won't be too distressing.
"At times, my sister can be loud, annoying, even a bully.
But she can also be my ally. We survived the mango war together, after all. It looks like we may need to survive San Francisco together too."
"Operation: Happy may ve gotten off track, but I see it now. I look at my boy. I have an idea, an idea not meant to fix anything, something that we can do together that is only about us having fun and being happy together."

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I absolutely adored this book. Jenni Walsh has the ability to bring history to life and with the addition of Happy, an adorable dog point-of-view, history also becomes relatable and less intimidating. Have a student who wants to know more about World War II but is anxious about the content? This is the book for them. Heartwarming and empowering . . . a total gem that belongs on every middle-grade library shelf!

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My daughters and I adored this story.
Operation follows the daughter of a military man and her dog during World War II.

Jody is used to the constantly change life as a military family. With her dog Happy by her side, she learns to find the happy where ever she is.

The latest move to Pearl Harbour, seems a bit different and unrest in Europe could potentially change their lives.

The book has dual POV, Jody and the dog Happy, an ageing, ex-service dog who seems to be losing his vision.

The story was fantastic and the historical fiction tied in nicely with other things we have been learning about WWII.

Highly, highly recommend

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Jenni L Walsh does a great job in writing a story about a girl and her dog in World War 2. It had a great story overall and the historical elements worked overall. I enjoyed how good the characters were written and glad I got to read this.

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Happy is a sentry dog, but when his holder is retired, he has a new owner: a twelve year old girl called Jody. Happy's eyesight is weakening, while she's approaching her golden years. Jody is used to live from place to place, according to where her naval officer father was ordered to go. And amidst all the confusion and unsettling feeling of the ever changing circumstances, Happy is, for Jody, her solid rock, the stability she longs for.

The story opens with the Zuber family (Dad, Mom, Jody, and her older sister Peggy) and Happy on board a ship towards their new abode in US Naval base at Ford Island, in Honolulu, Hawaii. The fast changing environment causes Jody to feel a little shy and nervous. But she is a resourceful and optimistic girl. To overcome it, she has started a best-of-list for every place she had lived in. Right now she's starting Fort Island list. The list starts sunny and cheerful, but Jody also notices her mother's growing nervousness.

The first sign that WW2 is touching America is when the siren began to wail. Then air raids and hiding in the bunker became almost a routine, until the Pearl Harbour attack. It was during these terrifying moments that Jody's character shines through. Her father judged her correctly by making Jody the leader of Team Zuber, while he's fighting for the country. Happy is constantly on guard during these attacks, he knows the way to the bunker, and always make sure that his girl, and Peggy, and Mom are save.

I love everything about this book. It's alternately funny and heartwarming, sad and cheerful. Sometimes the story is told from Happy's point of view, and these are my favorite. Happy's eyesight might be weak, but not his nose. He can smell Jody's nervousness - it smells bitter like broccoli - and her smile smells like vanilla. And of course, I love Jody. She's brave and resilient, and I admire her for taking adult responsibility almost without a flinch, and always humble on taking compliments. All in all, it's a lovely, heartwarming coming-of-age historical fiction about a dog and his girl's hopeful and courageous journey during one of the darkest moments in history.

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A compelling histfic middle grade story told through the POVs of Jody, daughter of a Marine at Pearl Harbor during WWII, and her dog Happy, a retired Marine canine losing his sight. Readers 8-12 will learn about the war in a non-traumatizing way, buffered by Walsh’s thoughtful writing and the presence of a much-loved pet.

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I have cried for this book... Thats was sad, emotional, hopefull... Loved it but it broke my heart...

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I loved this book. Although this is a children’s book, the subject was heavy containing war and bombings and all. I think this book gave a very good insight in how devastating and impactful this kind of situations are. This is about the Second World War and Pearl Harbor, but it really is a very actual topic still nowadays.

I loved that Jody had Happy with her to get through these emotional and trying times. I think for a 12-year-old she did a really good job.

I also have to give credit to the author for the first message in the book saying that the dog does NOT die in this book. I hate reading about dogs dying because they’re just too good to die. So I was glad to read this book already said he’d live. Happy deserves to live 🐶♥️

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Jodi gets her wish-a dog. Happy to be exact. Happy was a sentry dog for the base, until he started to lose his eyesight. Jodi and Happy start their life together at Pearl Harbor, until is it attacked. Then Jodi, her sister Peggy & eventually their mom move to the mainland. Happy is there to help Jodi through some tough times-unsafe living arrangements, Mom’s depression, problems at school to name a few. Through it all, Happy is there!

I really enjoyed this book. I was glad I was given the opportunity to read it. I can’t wait to share it when it is released!

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Historical Fiction AND about a dog?! Although it's middle grade, I instantly knew this book was for me. Oh how I wish this book had been around when I was younger.

This story if focused on a little girl named Jody who is part of a military family and her loyal dog, Happy who is also retired from the military. When they move to Ford Island in Oahu life is good. Everything about living in Hawaii is fun and new and Jody believes her and her family are safe from the war even though Mom seems quite nervous here. Little by little events starts happening to train Ford Island just in case. Sirens, plans of action and dungeons soon become routine. Once the bombing takes place Jody and Happy know exactly what to do, but that doesn't change the fact that their lives are heavily impacted and changed forever.

To keep safe Jody, Happy, her sister and mother must leave her father behind and move to San Francisco. Mom has turned into "Sad Mom" and her sister struggles to leave their sub-par apartment. Jody becomes the leader of Team Zuber. It's a lot for a little girl to take on while also dealing with a new teacher's pet at her new school. With Happy by her side, Jody is able to overcome so many obstacles and it truly is a story of resilience and finding silver linings during such a trying time.

The author's note at the end made everything that much sweeter letting us know this is loosely based off of a true story. I think this book is a wonderful stepping stone for young readers into the historical fiction and World War II era. I will 100% be purchasing the physical copy of this book for my daughter and niece to enjoy.

Pub. date: April 2, 2024
Thank you ZonderKidz and NetGalley for my copy!

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A heartwarming story which documents the difficulties of experiencing war as a child. The story made me smile and cry, and I will definitely recommend it to some of my younger students and have a physical copy in the class room. Thank you for allowing me to read this early digital copy.

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