The Short and Incredibly Happy 
Life of Riley

by Colin Thompson illustrated by Amy Lissiat (Lothian Books Melbourne Victoria 2005)

peace with ourselves

recommended but unavailable - maybe a copy in your local library


Colin, in this heart warming story suggests that humans, who can live for a long time are not very happy. But rats like Riley, his main character, live for a short time and are always happy because they are content and grateful for the simple things in life. This cute and light-hearted story is for all ages to enjoy and share together and it contains many peace-building elements:

  • happy endings

  •    everyone winning

  •     nonviolent resolution

  • imaginative and creative

  •    challenges existing stereotyping

  • faith and hope

  •     peace with the environment

  • finding personal peace

  •     ..and element that supports the idea that peace is possible

We are introduced to Riley and shown his world. Constantly Riley's world is compared to our human world, one in which we seem to be always looking to make better because we are simply not happy and content with the way things are.

"And the answer is simply, really - you just have to be happy with a lot less."

These words echo Mahatma Gandhi who stated:

Live simply so others can simply live.

Critical questions to explore with children

  • Was Riley ever bothered by anything?
  • Was Riley ever unhappy?
  • What was it that Riley wanted?
  • Why should humans never be allowed to have sticks?
  • What did Riley see when he looked into his mirror?
  • Did Riley ever fall in love?
  • What do you think Riley liked the most about his life?
  • Does the story have a happy win-win ending?

Creative questions to explore with children

  • Do you think rats could have feelings and be happy and content?
  • What makes you happy?
  • What would you change about your life if you could? Would this make you happier?
  • Do you think most humans are unhappy with their lot in life?
  • Who is the happiest person you know? What makes them happy?
  • Would life for a real rat be happy?
  • Do you think that Norman was happy after he died?
  • How else could the story have ended with win-win?

Teaching and Learning for Peace Foundation October 2005

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