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Happy Birthday to You! Review by Maggi Beardsley

By Margot Theis Raven
Sleeping Bear Press
310 North Main Street, Suite 300
Chelsea, MI 48118

Sleeping Bear Press is one of my favorite publishers. Their books are beautifully illustrated. Happy Birthday to You! is the story of the origin of the song "Happy Birthday to You."

The book begins by having the reader imagine a birthday celebration without the song "Happy Birthday." Then it takes the reader back to the childhood of Patty and Mildred Hill in Kentucky in the late 1800s. Ms. Raven writes how their father, Reverend Hill, believed that women should be educated and how Mrs. Hill created a playroom for her children to build big dreams. Mrs. Hill sang songs to her children for all occasions, even the ordinary. Mildred Hill became a piano teacher and a composer, while Patty Hill became one of the first kindergarten teachers in Louisville. The rest of the story tells how Mildred and Patty came to write the "Happy Birthday" song. The book is filled with multi-colored illustrations. After the story, there is a footnote about how the Hill sisters came to copyright the song, after it had been sung all over the nation.

This children's book is appropriate for elementary-aged children. It can be applied to so many different teaching areas. I used it to talk about dreams of the future. Reverend Hill asked his daughter Patty, "How will you light the world when grown?" At home we talked about the potential occupations that my children might have. We also talked about music and its role in everyday life. While Happy Birthday to You! is not a book specifically for homeschooling, it can be used as part of a unit study on the late 1800s/early 1900s, copyrights, music, the education of women, or career study.

The illustrations by Chris Soentpiet are stunning. They add depth to the story. All of my children loved the story. My daughters, in particular, enjoyed it. They dreamed aloud of their possible future careers. It was a jumping off point to discuss their dreams of being a mom, and finding a career while waiting for that moment.

There isn't much that I would add to complete the book, except maybe the score to the tune--because after reading about "Happy Birthday to You!" you want to sing!

Thank you Margot Raven for bringing us the story of the song in Happy Birthday to You! We enjoyed learning about the enthusiasm that Miss Hill brought to her classroom, enthusiasm that her mom nurtured in her when all of the Hill children played at home, creating with song.

Product review by Maggi Beardsley, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, November 2008