A World War II Story of Courage, Resilience, and an Unbreakable Bond
by Jenni L Walsh
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Pub Date 2 Apr 2024 | Archive Date 8 Apr 2024
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
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 18 members
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.
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.