My Heart is Laughing, written by Rose Lagercrantz and illustrated by Eva Eriksson, is a sweet little beginning chapter book about Dani, a girl “who’s always happy.” Of course, she isn’t always happy, but she has a cheerful personality that prefers to hope.
Dani’s best friend Ella has moved away, and Dani insists that no one can sit in Ella’s seat, because she’s coming back (at least she’s determined to believe that her friend will be returning). She tries to be friends with two other girls in her class, Mickey and Vicky, but they don’t like her because Cushion, a boy in their class, likes Dani instead of one of them. It was a surprise to me that grade school love was such an important part of the book—not because it doesn’t happen, but just because this big part of childhood seems to be left out of many books. Lagercrantz handles puppy love very well.
Mickey and Vicky take their dislike of Dani over the line into bullying until Dani defends herself with disastrous results. The book handles bullying in a believable way, showing how easy it is for kids to take sides against one another and how little things done to show displeasure to someone can quickly get out of hand.
Dani’s defense against most uncomfortable things is to think happy thoughts. She remembers all the fun things she did with Ella; she actually remembers them so intensely that she’s oblivious to things happening right around her. I think this coping mechanism makes Dani a good role model. Instead of being upset or feeling sorry for herself, she chooses to think about things that make her happy.
Short chapters, largish print, and lots of pen and ink drawings make this a perfect book for kids looking for beginning chapter books. It would be perfect for those kids needing to read a chapter a night before bed. Put this into the hands of kids who are missing a friend, facing bullying, or who are going through changes.