My Heart Is Laughing by Rose Lagercrantz, illustrated by Eva Eriksson
Dani has always been happy, but now that her best friend has moved away to another city, she is unhappy sometimes too. But Dani tries not to think about being unhappy. Dani didn’t know anyone in her class when she started school, but now she does. When two girls in her class both get a crush on the same boy and ask him who likes best, they are amazed when he shows that he’s much more likely to like Dani. Dani tried to keep being friendly with the girls, but neither of them wanted anything to do with her. Dani sat by herself at lunch, but she didn’t mind because she just thought about all of the fun she had visiting her best friend. But then her teacher moved her between the two girls, and Dani was cruelly pinched by them. Dani finally had enough, and reacted by squirting them (and then the teacher accidentally) with sauce. Now it is up to Dani to tell the truth about what happened and to figure out how to find happiness without her best friend at her side.
This is the second book featuring Dani, following My Happy Life, which tells the story of how Dani met her best friend and then how she had to move away. In this second book, the focus is on bullying and the author does a great job with it. As the situation escalates, Dani remains apart from the situation for awhile, then finds herself right in the middle of it. I appreciate that Dani is not faultless in the situation in her reaction, but also that she reacts humanly and believably to the situation.
Set in Sweden, the stories have a universal appeal but also are clearly not set in the United States. This is a gentle introduction to the subtle cultural differences and a great way to start a discussion about how people are both the same and different in other cultures.
Fans of the first book will love the next in Dani’s adventures. This will also find an audience as a read-aloud for teachers wishing to discuss bullying with elementary students. Appropriate for ages 7-9.
Reviewed from e-galley received from Gecko Press and NetGalley.