My Happy Life by Rose Lagercrantz and Eva Eriksson

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My Happy Life by Rose Lagercrantz and Eva Eriksson

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Category: For Sharing
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: Lovely, engaging illustrations throughout this delightful story make it a joy to share with children just starting school and those a little older too.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 144 Date: August 2012
Publisher: Gecko Press
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1877467806

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When Dani can't sleep she doesn't count sheep, she counts all the times that she's been happy! And Dani has been happy a lot of times. She's happy because she's about to start school, though she's nervous about making new friends. But then she meets Ella, and Ella becomes the very best friend she could ever have wished for. They have so much fun together, but then one day Ella tells Dani that she is moving house, and suddenly Dani isn't happy any more.

I really enjoyed this story. I enjoyed reading it by myself first and then even more so when I read it to my five year old daughter. Dani is an endearing character. She's sweet and innocent and I love that she counts her happy days to help her sleep. The story is gently, humorously written. I liked the developing friendship between Dani and Ella, and the fun things they get up to together. It's one of those all-consuming friendships, and felt very realistic, right down to a falling out between the two, but then a speedy making up! The book is quite moving at times. Dani tells us early on that she lives just with her dad and her cat, leaving us to wonder where her mum is. Later in the story, after Ella has moved house and Dani is so sad, we find out that Dani's mum got sick and died when she was little. I suppose it may just be because I'm hormonal having given birth three months ago but I found this part of the story terribly sad, and the picture of Dani, sitting on a windowsill looking at a photograph of her mother is very moving. There's some discussion about the phrase 'passed away' as that is what Dani's father told her about her mother, and Dani doesn't understand because how can a dead person pass anything, and away to where? But then later her grandmother explains it's just something people say and that really her mother hadn't passed away, she had got wings and flown.

Dani is incredibly sad about Ella having left, but gradually she finds new ways to be happy. Ella and Dani begin writing to each other, and then a visit is planned, and so Dani's happy life is back on track again. I moved house many times as a child, and Dani's feelings were completely understandable to me. This would, then, be a good book to share with younger children who have a friend who is moving away, or perhaps even if they're moving house themselves, so that they can see friendships can be maintained and you can still be happy at school without your best friend.

The delightful illustrations really bring this story to life. They're black and white throughout but they're utterly charming. The children are appealing and their emotions are easy to read from the pictures. There's a picture with each turn of the page, so it's a good introduction to reading a chapter book for children who aren't yet ready to give up the pictures but who want something a bit more substantial to their stories.

The chapters themselves are all very short. You could use it as a bedtime storybook and just have a brief chapter each night, or you could read all of it in one go, if you've got enough voice, and it would only take about half an hour. We began reading it, intending to go chapter by chapter, but then we were enjoying it so much we read it all the way through! Those who are a little older and more confident with their reading would enjoy reading it by themselves. It's probably more suited to girls than to boys since it's very much focused on a female friendship. It would be a sweet gift for a young girl and is certainly one we'll happily return to for a re-read.

For a rather different story about starting school try The Witch's Children Go to School by Ursula Jones and Russell Ayto

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Buy My Happy Life by Rose Lagercrantz and Eva Eriksson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy My Happy Life by Rose Lagercrantz and Eva Eriksson at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
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