I don’t read many early chapter books that I would describe as “philosophical.” They are often well written or funny or engaging – or all of those things. But….very few surprise me in quite the way that My Happy Life by Rose Lagercrantz did. Lagercrantz’s book is about big ideas: resilience and loss and happiness. The story centers around a young girl named Dani who lives with her father and her cat. Dani’s mother, we learn, died when Dani was very young. At the beginning of the book Dani is nervous about starting at a new school, but it doesn’t take long for her to meet Ella and the two girls become inseparable. Eva Erikkson’s pen and ink illustrations are a perfect complement to the budding friendship: “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 Ella has to move away and Dani is sad, you might even call it depressed. It hadn’t occurred to me before that books for young readers very seldom represent true sadness, but why not? Sadness is an emotion we all feel – kids too. Dani has a supportive father, a concerned teacher, many new friends, and of course, letters from Ella. With the help of people who love her – and two white hamsters – Dani works though it. My Happy Life is genuine. It reminded me that kids have complex feelings just like the adults in their lives. Share this one with children (ages 6-9) going through a challenging time. It will support them – and even make them happy.
On a completely different note, I saw this display in Whole Foods today and had to take a picture. The Very Hungry Caterpillar is now selling baby lotion!