And the Pursuit of Happiness

Friday, December 16, 2011


And the Pursuit of Happiness
by Maira Kalman
★★★★★

This book is a graphic novel, illustrated poem, love letter to democracy, etc. Call it what you will, I just loved it. It’s a sweet look at our government and the world around us. It’s simple and joyful. The goal is not to give you a history lesson, but it manages to share some wonderful bits about our fore father in a playful way. The hefty book is over 400 pages, but it’s mainly illustrations and so it’s a quick afternoon read.

Kalman seems to find joy in the simplest things, like the funny quirks of the people she meets or the signs she sees above a public restroom in the Capital building. Her drawings and thoughts are so endearing. She talks about the food she ate on her trip and the people she met, even if they aren’t essential to what she’s saying. She gets sidetracked, but that’s part of the charm.


The book is split into 12 chapters, one devoted to each month of the year. It explores the lives of a few of our well-known presidents (Lincoln, Jefferson and Washington), including tidbits about their marriages and personal lives. The whole thing is done in such a lovely, whimsical way that each page is a treat.

p.s. For some reason I thought the drawing on the front was suppose to be some Russian guy, it’s not, it’s Ben Franklin.

p.p.s. This one was especially perfect for the Dewey Read-a-Thon. I hit a wall after about 12 hours of reading and this book acted as a palette cleanser, giving me a much-needed boost of energy.

You’ve Gotta Read This had this to say... “It makes you feel good about our country, about determination and confidence, and about finding happiness in the smaller things in life.”

9 comments:

Sandy Nawrot said...

Haha! I thought it was a WOMAN on the cover. That kind of threw me. But this is a perfect palatte cleanser. I totally loved it!

Nymeth said...

This sounds very interesting. I read very few GNs this year, which makes me sad. I hope I can get a hold of this one for 2012.

Alex (The Sleepless Reader) said...

Do you think non-American would enjoy it as well?

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Sandy - I'm thinking that maybe they needed a different cover!

Nymeth - I hope you read it. I read some great graphic novels this year. French Milk and Persepolis were both wonderful.

Alex - If you know who George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin are I think you'd still really like it!

Jenners said...

I thought Russian man too. I read a book illustrated (but not written) by her and would find this book intersting I think. Thanks!

Jessica said...

haha when I fist saw your post I thought the guy was some Russian as well.

This looks really good, Ive added it to me wish list.

Jenny said...

I'm so fond of Maira Kalman! And the Pursuit of Happiness started out as a monthly New York times column, so I was reading it as it came out. It was always exciting to find she'd posted a new monthly column! Then when it came out in book form I got it for my mumsy for Christmas, and she loved it too. I adore Maira Kalman's style of illustrations.

Mumsy said...

I love her use of vivid color, which seems to incarnate her enormous enthusiasm for life, liberty, and the pursuit of...

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Jenners - I want to find mroe that she's done.

Jessica - Crazy Russian man.

Jenny - I had no idea it was a column first. I can see how that would be a great way to read it. I really want to read more from her.

Mumsy - Enthusiasm for life, that's exactly it! She's just bursting with it.