BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

My Happy Life by Rose Lagercrantz, illustrated by Eva Eriksson, translated by Julia Marshall

My Happy LifeWhen Dani can’t sleep, she doesn’t count sheep, she “counted all the times she’d been happy.” Now she’s also excited, as well as happy: “She’d waited her whole life to start school.” Her first day is “‘[m]aybe a little bit scary, but lots of fun,'” as she explains to her family – her Dad and Cat. The next day turns out to be even better because she meets Ella: “You couldn’t find a better friend than Ella. She and Dani stuck together through wet and dry, sun and rain, thick and thin.”

But then Ella moves away, and Dani’s happiness falters. Missing Ella makes Dani remember how she “used to have a mother who lived there, too, but she had passed away.” While she knows Ella didn’t die as her mother did, Ella is, in effect, gone. At least for now. School, especially, is no longer the same happy place.

Little by little, Dani regains her happiness – her father, her grandmother, and her Italian relatives all help. Mixed in with “things [that] had gone wrong,” Dani realizes she’s still “probably the happiest person she knew but not all the time”; she learns that part of being “happy many times in my life” includes not-so-happy experiences, too.

Swedish author Rose Lagercrantz creates a gently realistic reminder that a happy story doesn’t need to be a saccharine-coated fairy tale. Lagercrantz shows how acknowledging hardships, accepting support from others can substantially up the happy-factor. Eva Erikkson, Lagercrantz’s longtime artistic collaborator (over 30 years!), imbues Dani with a full range of emotions; her delightful illustrations endearingly balance every downturned expression with an eventual smile, giggle, and guffaw. For readers of every age, My Happy Life turns out to be quite the meaningful reality check – touching and hopeful, too!

Readers: Children, Middle Grade

Published: 2010, 2013 (United States)

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