What makes you happy?

posted in: 2. Illustrators and Authors | 10

My Happy Life by Rose Lagercrantz, illustrated by Eva Eriksson, translated by Julia Marshall is a great early chapter book about friendship, school and holding on to the good things in life, despite its ups and downs.

Dani is probably the happiest person she knows. When she can’t sleep at night instead of counting sheep, she counts all the times she’s been happy. But now she’s starting a new school and she’s understandably a little bit nervous.

This book is perfect for newly fluent readers (say 5-8 years old probably) for so many reasons. It looks great; a real book, which feels substantial and lovely in your hands and doesn’t look babyish. Nearly every page is illustrated with Eriksson’s line drawings which ooze with warmth, and chapters are short and therefore both achievable and encouraging (“why try just a few more pages if I can get through a chapter this easily?”). Form is one thing, but the content is also spot on, addressing issues around friendship, school and family life that will feature in many of the book’s readers’ own lives.

Whilst wonderful observations make this book oh-so-believable (in our family we particularly liked the observation about kids collecting the stickers from apples and bananas and hiding them in a special place) this book is also full of little surprises: Dani’s life may be generally very happy, but we learn that her mother died when she was young. Dani is just like you or me or any small child starting school, but she comes from a multi-cultural family, with relatives overseas. As a parent I really valued this mix of ordinariness with reminders of the different sorts of lives we all live, and the different sorts of families that can be full of happiness, warmth and stability.

If you’re looking for a book about the ups and downs of friendship which is positive, reassuring, and recognisable, My Happy Life comes highly recommended.

Inspired by My Happy Life, we made our own angel bookmarks; Dani’s best friend Ella has a very precious angel bookmark which, after some trials and tribulations, she eventually gives to Dani.

We folded strips of gold card in half and glued a magnet on one (inside) side, and a penny on the other. Then we drew angels on the card with permanent markers.

The magnets help the bookmarks stay in place in the book.

We ended up making one for all of the books we’ve got on the go at the moment!

Bookmarks are always fun to make and we never seem to have enough. Here are some great pinterest boards about bookmarks if you’re looking for inspiration.

Whilst we made our bookmarks we listened to:

  • Don’t Worry Be Happy by Bobby McFerrin
  • Shiny Happy People by R.E.M.
  • Put On A Happy Face by Dick Van Dyke and The Vantastix
  • You’ve Got A Friend In Me by Randy Newman (yep, the one from Toy Story)

  • Other activities which would go well with reading My Happy Life include:

  • Making a jar of happiness for yourself or a friend. Here’s one idea from A Place of My Own, and another from The Sweet Sanity Blog.
  • Potato prints or baking bread – Dani has both bread and potato weeks at school!
  • Building a city with blocks – a crucial scene in the book takes place when the kids in Dani’s class have created a series of buildings with lego and wooden blocks.

  • What early readers / easy chapter books have you read recently and enjoyed?

    Disclosure: I received a free copy of My Happy Life from Gecko Press. I was under no obligation to review the book and I received no money for this post.

    10 Responses

    1. rhythm

      This looks like a really nice book. I think I like Dani already, before even reading the book! Thank you for sharing it. And I really like your angel bookmarks. A great idea.

    2. choxbox

      Thanks for the reco, sounds perfect for my 7-year old.

      And is that a Laura Ingalls Wilder (Little House) books I spot there?!

    3. Sam

      This does look like a lovely book and I can see it would be good for any child, but particularly those who feel no one understands their worries or who feel alone in their anxieties (I have one of those!). I love the bookmarks. I have been thinking of making some for Xmas and this has given me some ideas – thanks!
      Sam recently posted..We’re loving limericks!

    4. Iona Burchell

      What a fantastic site! I love the sound and look of this book and it looks ideal for my daughter.
      When she was just moving from picture books to early reading, she really enjoyed ‘Doctor Witch’s Animal Hospital’ by Sheila May Bird and published by Kingfisher. It has just the right balance of text and illustration and boosted her confidence.
      I am forever moaning to anyone who’ll listen about my frustrations with the teaching of reading in state schools…..
      Iona Burchell recently posted..Free Colour Blend App-limited time

      • Zoe

        Hi Iona, I don’t know Doctor Witch’s Animal Hospital, but I’ll look out for it. One of the things I really love about My Happy Life is that it feels like such a sophisticated book – not an “easy/early reader”, but rather a book for “big” kids – the sort of book I think kids would be proud to be seen reading.

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