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Thursday, April 20, 2017

My heart is laughing, written by Rose Lagercrantz and illustrated by Eva Eriksson. Gecko Press, Thomas Allen and Son. 2014. $26.50 ages 6 and up

"Ella's mother scolded them and said they couldn't take any more chairs. And Ella's extra father agreed with her. Ella has two fathers. A real one she never talks about and an extra one called Patrick. Except that Ella calls him Paddy. Paddy said that chairs belong at home in the kitchen and not in the park. Dani and Ella stopped playing monkeys and went to play with their hamsters ... "

Ella has gone, and Dani continues to miss her every day. At school she wants to keep Ella's desk free for her, in case she comes back. She lets her classmates know those wishes. Her teacher is not optimistic that Ella will return; Dani is sure she will.

Trying to encourage Dani to reach out and explore other friendships, her teacher places Dani between Vicky and Mickey for lunch. What we, as readers, see is the way the two girls treat their classmate. They bully and pinch her mercilessly. In anger, and to defend herself, Dani uses the sauce at the table to allay their bullying. Some lands on the teacher! Dani can't believe the result of her actions. She runs home. No one is there, which allows her to cry in private about all that is troubling her.

"But most of all she cried because Ella hadn't
come back yet.
She cried so hard that
her eyes went as red as
a white rabbit's."

Things don't get much better when her father does get home. He says she must go to school and apologize. She will not! Left alone, she uses memories of her friendship with Ella to cheer her up. I like that the author uses a flashback to provide back story for those who have not yet met Dani. Finally, ready to talk with her father, she finds him in the kitchen. When everything is finally sorted out and they return to school, they are able to explain what happened and set the wrongs right. All this is due to Dani's very optimistic way of looking at life. It makes her a most worthy protagonist and is sure to garner fans for Rose Lagercrantz's other stories about her.

It is an honest, sad and challenging at times, and yet joyful tale. We learn quickly that Dani is a girl worth knowing better!

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