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Children's Fiction Emotions & Feelings

Not a Smiley Guy

by (author) Polly Horvath

illustrated by Boris Kulikov

Holiday House
Initial publish date
Apr 2024
Emotions & Feelings, Humorous Stories, General
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2024
    List Price

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Where to buy it

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 4 to 6
  • Grade: p to 1


What will it take to get Ernest to smile? Find out in Newbery Honor author Polly Horvath's picture book debut.

From the day he’s born, Ernest has few complaints. His family is lovely; the world has a lot to offer. He’d like there to be more elephants around, but hey, you can’t have everything. Ernest is just as happy as the next guy.

The trouble is, everyone around him is obsessed with smiling. His parents smile when he learns to walk, when he learns to talk, when he learns to button up his snowsuit. But smiling just isn’t for Ernest, and they can’t let it go. When drastic, elephant-related measures are taken, and Ernest still doesn’t smile, the whole family learns that sometimes loving someone means meeting in the middle.

Equal parts deadpan and genuine, Not a Smiley Guy is an ideal conversation starter for kids just discovering that we each have our own ways of showing how we feel. Readers who struggle to be understood will resonate with Ernest’s good-natured exasperation.

Boris Kulikov’s textured, moody illustrations accompany National Book Award winner Polly Horvath’s sardonic tale of acceptance and intentional communication, as useful for grown-ups as it is for kids.

About the authors

Polly Horvath is one of the most highly acclaimed authors writing today. Her books include The Canning Season (winner of the National Book Award and the CLA Young Adult Book Award), Everything on a Waffle (a Newbery Honor Book, an ALA Notable Book and winner of the Mr. Christie's Book Award and the Sheila A. Egoff Children's Literature Prize), The Trolls (a National Book Award finalist), My One Hundred Adventures (a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, a Booklist Editors' Choice, a Kirkus Reviews Best Children's Book of the Year and winner of a NAPPA Gold Award and the Sheila A. Egoff Children's Literature Prize), and Northward to the Moon (an Oprah's Book Club Kids' Reading List selection and winner of a Parents' Choice Gold Award). Her most recent book is Mr. and Mrs. Bunny — Detectives Extraordinaire!

Polly Horvath's profile page

Boris Kulikov's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"Polly Horvath narrates the early life of an undemonstrative boy with fun and verve in 'Not a Smiley Guy,' a picture book for 4- to 6-year-olds with atmospheric illustrations by Boris Kulikov. . . A clever defense of interior states regardless of public expression—something adults are permitted without the scrutiny children receive."—Wall Street Journal

"Newbery Honor Book author and National Book Award winner Horvath champions the art of compromise."—Booklist

"A charming book. . ."—School Library Journal

"Children will smile more than once while reading this quirky tale."—Kirkus Reviews

"Horvath’s whimsical writing style gives the quirky tale her hallmark blend of absurdism and wholeheartedness. . . a subtle but reassuring tale."The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

"[A] dry comedy . . . [with] sly, stylized illustrations. . . "—Publisher's Weekly

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