Happiness Is a Watermelon on Your Head

Author: Daniel Hahn
Illustrator: Stella Dreis

Age: 4+
RRP: £6.99
ISBN: 9781907912054
Publication Date: 01-02-2012
Format: Pb, 260mm x 260mm
Extent: 40 pages

It's completely mad....

At the end of the village, behind a green door,    

Lived happy Miss Jolly, with Melvin her boar.

Each morning she'd sit in her tree playing a song

On her cello, while Melvin sang sweetly along.

A cauliflower hat, a fish bonnet, a few large animals, a flying boar called Melvin and a whole lot of watermelons.  

To the villagers who watch her going about her day, it is clear that Miss Jolly is irritatingly happy. Her never-ending cheerfulness leaves three of her neighbours highly confused and jealous, driving them to ridiculous and hilarious measures in an attempt to compete with Miss Jolly in the happiness - and headgear - stakes. Beautiful and insane in equal measure, this wacky book follows three local busybodies on their journey to discover the secret of true happiness. Stella Dreis’ illustrations are striking for their humour, colourfulness and bizarreness all rolled into one. Phoenix Yard Books are proud to publish another undiscovered illustrator’s UK debut. Oh, and the watermelons rhyme...

Image copyright © Stella Dreis



“This is a book of craziness that children will love, especially if it’s followed by some watermelon, or any silliness related fund. All the characters and objects in the story are used in a very exaggerated way to emphasise the importance and joy of being free to be silly, and how happy to can make us. The pictures in the story are just crazy...And the watermelons – why the watermelons? Who cares? They’re beautiful, colourful and very messy, and the splats they create will put a smile on many little faces who’ll squeak with delight at all the madness spilling out of this book.”

Marzena Currie, School Librarian

"This is a brilliantly funny picture book to share with any toddler. Parent and child are sure to laugh through it as you meet three rather miserable ladies who live in a completely mad world but by the end of the story they've realised that happiness is a much better way to live!"

LoveReading for Kids

"With colourful illustrations and a funny storyline this tale is great at capturing how nosy neighbours really can be. Full of creative imagination this is an inspiring story to be loved by all, particularly those who have a love for watermelons!"


"A fun, quirky book about what makes us feel happy or sad."

Junior Magazine

"All sorts of things abound in this completely wacky picture book where everything is just a little bit mad... This is a simply gorgeous picture book by Bulgarian author and illustrator Stella Dreis. The illustrations are a riot of colour with larger-than-life characters that are completely eccentric and fill up every page. The differing font sizes and italic in the text is a perfect accompaniment to the stunning artwork but it also helps to emphasise the brilliant rhyming verse making it a perfect book to read aloud.

First published in Brazil and expertly translated and rewritten in verse by Daniel Hahn, this is a gem of a book."

Outside In

"An intriguing title! Three miserable neighbours decide to find out what makes Miss Jolly so happy. They decide it must be her hats, so they try a range of hilarious objects as hats, but none make them happy. What can the secret be? What is 'pink, sticky and worn on the head?' They find out in the end in this zany, fun-filled story in catchy rhyming text, with intriguing illustrations by Stella Dreis."

Parents in Touch

"Happiness is a Watermelon on your Head is the most enjoyable rhyme to read out loud to your children since Dr Seuss."

Reviewer, Amazon UK, 2012

“There are some wonderful rhymes in this book, and a unique sense of rhythm which makes it a real pleasure to read aloud...The illustrations are clever, witty and sophisticated... Altogether, it’s a memorable, eccentric and wildly original book.”

Books for Keeps, March 2012

"Stella Dreis' picture book is fun and eccentric, a bit like its heroine, Miss Jolly. The energetically drawn pictures are beautifully rendered....the whole book is held together very nicely by Daniel Hahn's excellent verse translation of Dreis' original story. All in all this makes for a fun picture book that parents will enjoy reading aloud and which is full of quirky little details and incidents for children to discover."

INIS Magazine (Children’s Books Ireland), April 2012

Dreis combines opulent color, comical poses, and a novel composition to create this luscious picture book. Hahn’s rhymes are fresh, sprinkled with rich vocabulary. This feast for the eyes and ears should be on everyone’s menu.

School Library Journal (USA), May 2013

Happiness is a Watermelon on your Head is a delightfully surreal picture book with a rhyming text provided by Daniel Hahn to complement the lush, fantastical world that Stella Dreis creates so well with her wonderful illustrations. This really seems like one of those perfect collaborations between writer and illustrator that children will adore...The story has a real element of the Lewis Carroll/Alice in Wonderland fantasy about it that makes it delightful to read and share. It is also very funny, both in the words the author chooses, and the way the illustrator chooses to depict the story. The vocabulary and images are rich pickings if you are trying to stimulate children's creativity and engage in their love of off the wall material.

Making Them Readers

About the author and illustrator

Daniel Hahn is a writer, editor and translator. He has translated fiction by novelists including José Eduardo Agualusa, José Luís Peixoto and María Dueñas (winning the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize with Agualusa’s The Book of Chameleons; and non-fiction by writers ranging from Portuguese Nobel laureate José Saramago to Brazilian footballer Pelé. He is also one of the editors of the Ultimate Book Guides, an award-winning series of reading guides for children and teenagers, and is currently assembling a new Oxford Companion to Children’s Literature. This is his first picture book.

Stella Dreis was born in 1972 in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. In 1995 she received a scholarship for gifted students to the Academy of Fashion Design in Hamburg. Her first children’s picture book, The City that Went Off, was published in 2008. Stella’s take on the Hans Christian Andersen classic, The Princess and the Pea, 2009, was voted one of the seven best children's books of the year in Germany.

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