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What Makes You Happy?

I hope to create an uplifting story about the pursuit of happiness as viewed by a young child, living in a city.

Photo of Chun Yin
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Mei was not happy. 

Her mother gave her a cookie but she was still sad. 

Her father tickled her but she did not laugh.

Her brother told a joke but it was not funny. 

Her sister shared her lemonade but it tasted sour.


Mei sat alone under a big willow tree in the city park.

Along came an African bullfrog. 

“What makes you happy, Mr. Frog?”

“The sun that warms my skin.” He croaked and hopped away. 

Mei reached out and pinched off a ray of sunshine and put it in her pocket. 


Shortly, a green sea turtle waddled over.

“Mr. Turtle, what makes you happy?”

The turtle slowly poked his head out of the ground. 

“The soft, rich Earth that feeds me.” He walked off into the small pond nearby. 

Mei scooped up a handful of dirt as she watched the turtle disappear into the water. 


A beautiful, golden carp swam into view.

“Mrs. Koi, what makes you happy?”

“The refreshing water that keeps me floating.” She turned around and splashed water on Mei. 

The little girl giggled.


“Caw. Cacaw.” A family of macaws sang. 

“What makes you happy, birdies?”
“The cool breeze that flutters my feathers.” The birds soar higher into the clouds. 

Mei took a deep breath to fill her lungs with the warm air.


Now she was tired and hungry and wished for that cookie and lemonade again. 

She sat back and fell asleep, lulled by the soft lullaby of the rustling leaves.


“Mei! There you are. We’ve been looking for you.”

She opened one eye to see her mother, father, brother and sister smiling at her. 

She hugged her family and said, “I know what makes ME happy--LOVE.“


A small sprout grew out of her pocket where she stored the sunshine, the Earth, the water, the wind and love.

Describe the intended vision for your early childhood book manuscript in 1-2 sentences

To the young reader, this book tells a story of an unhappy young girl who meets colorful animals representing different parts of the world that offer simple answers to a very difficult grownup question. For the adult reader, it is a reminder of the simple pleasures of life and that we are all the same on the inside, regardless of our color on the outside.

Share your suggested book title

What Makes You Happy?

How has this book been informed by early childhood language development research and evidence? (response minimum 250 Characters)

I've tried to incorporate Tier 1 words by using simple words but yet try to deliver a profound message that I think even young children can relate. I particularly enjoyed the TED talk on "What do babies think?" I also work with children every day and I am fascinated by how intelligent and inquisitive a young child can be.

Please describe any familiarity you may have with Philadelphia and its residents? (optional question)

As an adult, I lived and worked in Philadelphia for three years. I currently live within 30 minutes of the city and still return for the rich history and the music and the arts.

How have you crafted this manuscript to resonate with and/or reflect the experiences of those living in urban contexts? (optional question)

My main character is a young, impressionable girl of Asian descent. She is visiting the city park but instead of enjoying her family and the beauty around her, she sulks under a tree. We don't know why she is sad except to say that likely the stresses of urban life are impacting her mood. The different animals she encounters represent some of the cultures and people of Philadelphia.

Location: Country

United States

Location: State or Department

New Jersey

Location: City


Tell us more about you / your team

I arrived in the US when I was just two years old. My parents left their mother country, looking for a better future for their three children. During my childhood, I have called Washington DC, Brooklyn and Newark my home. I remember living in small cramped quarters and wearing second-hand clothing. But through education and determination, I went to college and then medical school and now I am raising my own four children. I would like to spread awareness about diversity and urban life, starting with my children.

Provide an example visual identity for a look and feel you might like to achieve. ( (optional question, 3-5 visuals)

I imagine a very colorful book with each animal representing the richness of a different country.

Multiple Choice - Have you been previously published (online, self-published, and print included)?

  • No

Do you have an agent?

  • No

How did you hear about the Challenge? (optional question)

  • Someone in my network (word of mouth)

What best describes you? (optional question)

  • I am/we are creatives, writers, or artists


Join the conversation:

Photo of Princess Agha

I really loved this story! I think metacognition and social emotional learning are very important to learn, and you can never start too early. It was nice to see the different things that make the various characters happy. Also, I was quite relieved when Mei figured out what brought happiness.

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