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To understand the true meaning and value of resilience, look no further than the 20 brief chapters of this early reader, created by two longtime Swedish collaborators and beautifully translated into spare, lyrical prose. Even at a young age, Dani has seen more than her share of heartache: the best friend she meets in chapter four moves away by chapter eight ("[Dani] wished she could move, too. But she had to stay behind"), a departure that prompts the sad revelation that Dani's mother died sometime earlier. "They said she had passed away," writes Lagercrantz, "but how could a dead person pass anything? And away to where?" But as Eriksson's emotionally astute and often endearingly funny pencil drawings show, Dani does indeed have much to be happy about. She has a loving father and extended family, an unflappable teacher whose lesson plans form a wry running joke ("They had a fruit week and a vegetable week. They learned all about fruit and vegetables"), and--above all--an openness to reflection and new possibilities, big and small.
--Publishers Weekly, starred review--Journal
"Dani is eager to start school, but as she and her father approach the building, she begins to worry. Will she like her new teacher? Will she feel alone? Soon Dani and her classmate Ella become fast friends, sitting together, playing together, eating lunch together each day, and even having occasional sleepovers. When Ella moves away, Dani is forlorn, and every other hurt is magnified by her sorrow. Her father's gift of hamsters cheers her a bit, but it takes some time, reflection, correspondence with Ella, and a promised visit before Dani feels whole again. Translated from the Swedish, this simply written chapter book tenderly portrays the happiness of a child whose life is in balance, as well as the colossal, unremitting, inconsolable sorrow of one who is suffering loss. Lagercrantz mentions Dani's experiences when her mother died some years earlier, but leaves it to readers to draw the inference. The clarity and simplicity of the writing are balanced by the verve and finesse of Eriksson's captivating illustrations. Working beautifully with the text and usually given more space on the page, these sensitive ink drawings feature clean lines that express emotions through every character's stance, gesture, and expression. A quietly compelling book for young readers."--starred, Booklist--Journal
"Young Dani has what she considers a happy life, but she wonders if she will still be happy once she starts school. The butterflies subside when she meets Ella, and they are soon fast friends. When Ella moves away, Dani doesn't think she'll find happiness again, and she reflects on how unhappy she was when her mother died. The story unfolds in short chapters, with just a few sentences per page and large, plentiful, black-and-white drawings. The illustrations complement the narrative well, and will enable younger readers to feel a sense of accomplishment for tackling a lengthy chapter book. The few characters are well developed and the everyday happenings in Dani's life feel genuine, such as friendship woes and childhood fears. The difficult subjects are handled gracefully, allowing children to realize that happiness comes and goes, and that everyone has hardships to face." --School Library Journal--Journal
A chapter book about childhood depression paradoxically delivers a very happy reading experience.
Dani can't sleep the night before school starts, and with good reason. Will she like it? Will she be forced to spend all her time learning? Luckily, she makes a new best friend on Day 2. Dani and Ella sit together at lunchtime, choose each other for partners, establish the Night Club (an ambitious name for sleepovers) and even wear two halves of one heart necklace. Nothing can come between them, except, all of a sudden, "thousands of streets and roads" between Dani's town and Ella's new house, where she has to move with her family. Dani is no stranger to loss; her mother died when she was younger, but when she loses Ella, her happy mood succumbs to depression. New hamsters help. New friends help. But what really helps is the promise of a visit. Acclaimed Swedish writer Lagercrantz applies exactly the right amount of whimsical childhood observation and attitude to a serious exploration of a very young, broken heart. Eriksson's pen-and-ink illustrations supply a simple yet wholly engaged context for these small, brave characters.
A sweet read for both children and their parents, who may be grateful at the reminder of emotional complexity lurking behind their children's smiles.
"For young middle grade readers, a new chapter book, 'My Happy Life, ' takes up the subject of resilience in such a natural and powerful way, children won't remotely feel like they're reading a manual. Instead, 'My Happy Life, ' written by Rose Lagercrantz and illustrated by Eva Eriksson, is one of those joyous rarities: a book about girls who are neither infallible nor pratfall-prone, but who are instead very real -- both admirable and relatable.
'My Happy Life' isn't about death but about how children process negative experiences, whether it's a friend moving away or a classroom spat that ends in a bloody mouth (not Dani's). It's about children's natural and learned resilience, the incredible bouncing back that never ceases to surprise their worn-down parents. The book's intended readers may not realize they are reading about anything unusually prized, but they will recognize they're on to something quite splendid. If only all early chapter books were this beautifully conceived." --The New York Times Book Review