My Happy Life

tr. from Swedish by Julia Marshall. illus. by Eva Eriksson. 134p. Gecko. Mar. 2013. Tr $16.95. ISBN 978-1-8775-7935-6.
RedReviewStarGr 1–3—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.—Michele Shaw, Quail Run Elementary School, San Ramon, CA
In twenty very short, generously illustrated chapters, this Swedish duo takes the essential matter of the primary-school years -- a best friend found, lost, and found again; hamsters; macaroni; the bad boy; playground accidents; the oddity of a school curriculum ("they had potato week and learned all about potatoes") -- and recasts it in a fresh, sweet light. Heroine Dani is individual without being quirky, and the backstory of her mother's death, long ago, is woven in with matter-of-fact tenderness. The humor is gentle. First-day-of-school nerves manifest themselves in various ways: "One boy refused to go in. His mother had to bribe him with money." The book's open layout, with its plentiful white space, welcomes the new reader, as

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