The My Happy Life chapter book series is one of the most acclaimed and loved we’ve published at Gecko Press. These illustrated books for children starting to read alone celebrate Dani’s special ability to be happy — even if sometimes life makes that hard — and to make others happy too.
They’ve received many accolades internationally — New York Times notable book, starred reviews — and for us as publishers, they’ve provided a happy flow of feedback from children and their enthusiastic teachers and caregivers. Each year we’ve brought out a new book in the series for these hungry readers. Sadly that won’t be so any more, with the seventh and final book released last month. But — all’s happy that ends happy! — we know there are always new beginning readers ready to discover the series.
The books have attached themselves firmly to many of us working with them over the years, so as booksellers, publishers and designers, we asked ourselves what we’ve enjoyed most about My Happy Life.
Vida Kelly, freelance book art director and designer
It has been wonderful seeing a series of books which has engaged Elsa over a period of several years. I love how each time a new My Happy Life book has come out Elsa has instantly tucked it under her arm and happily disappeared into her bedroom for some time alone in Dani’s world.
She has felt a real connection with the characters and has loved finding out about what they have been up to in each instalment, and enjoyed reading them again and again. She has taken them into school so her class can share them. We have both loved Eva Eriksson’s illustrations too. It is hard to believe that they haven’t been done by the author as they capture the characters and the essence of the stories so well.
Vida’s daughter Elsa
These books are good for all ages and even though the two main characters are girls I think boys would enjoy them too. There are lots of boys and girls in their classroom who are involved in the stories as well.
They are full of fun, adventure and loving friendship and also show how sometimes in life you have to overcome sad or difficult times. But her best friend Ella is always by her side when tough times come
This is my favourite series of books.
One day I took a copy of My Happy Life home to read up on the Gecko Press list that Walker was about to start distributing and decided to read some of it to my daughter, Frankie, at bedtime.
She was six at the time, and the next morning as I was getting ready for work, I saw she had grabbed it and continued to read it – without me! Frankie quickly finished this book and demanded the next in the series, and then the next and so on. If I’m honest, I was a little annoyed she had gone ahead of me, as I was enjoying it so much and intended to read the first one to her over several nights.
But I needn’t have worried, because she then read them to me, and together we took turns at reading to each other and delighted at Dani starting school, making friends, her best friend Ella and all the drama that is completely relatable to us both!
At eight, she was just as excited to just read the last in the series, All’s Happy that Ends Happy. She’s read these books several times over, and for me they remind me how much I pored over The Naughtiest Girl series and Milly Molly Mandy of my own childhood. There’s illustrated chapters to keep young emerging readers interested and content that is relatable, fun and, at times, emotional.
My favourite is When I Am Happiest because it is so heartbreaking to watch (and read) Dani go from being so happy to the instant when her life changes with her dad being run over. There is that terrible moment when things may never be the same, and wondering if her dad will recover and how she deals with it.
Or course, her mum passing away when she was younger is at the back of your mind, and your heart breaks for her. I cried so much for Dani and the writing takes you on this emotional journey of all Dani is dealing with. But she gets her next happy moment eventually. A very beautiful book this one.
Leone’s daughter Frankie
I love the My Happy Life series as I love reading about Dani and Ella and all the adventures they get up to
My favourite is the first book, My Happy Life. It’s a good experience to make new friends and shine like a star not rain like a thunderstorm.
Everyone has to eventually get over what’s happened in the past and start new, like this amazing book. Dani goes through a hard time and thinks she’ll never get over it, but she finds that she can make more friends and she starts feeling good about that.
Phillippa Duffy, General Manager at the University Book Shop Otago
The My Happy Life series stays with me as one of those parenting experiences I’ll remember forever. My nearly six-year-old daughter hadn’t taken to reading as I’d expected; wasn’t inhaling every book within reach. She really could take or leave reading, almost with disdain.
I was distraught! Then our children’s specialist at our local bookshop recommended My Happy Life. It became my daughter’s sixth birthday present and her confidence as a reader grew from the moment she opened the parcel and again when we tucked each other up together to read in bed that night.
She was captivated. It looked like a chapter book, had grown up gate fold flaps, gorgeous paper, a few little pictures for some light relief, and some short sentences for her to nibble at while we took ‘turns’, with the larger passages falling to me but her confidence growing with each page.
Not only that, but she was in the book! The new school experiences of making friends and dealing with frenemies at play time. We loved that Meatball got his comeuppance.
After that we pre-ordered every book in the series and there’d be squeals of delight when the letter arrived in our cottage mailbox letting her know that another instalment had arrived. She shared the books with her cousins, talked about them with her friends, and asked the school librarian to stock them so others could read them as well.
They really are a perfect series to help young readers, both voracious and tentative, on their lifelong reading journey.
Phillippa’s daughter Mary
My Happy Life is a touching story that I have read and treasured since I was six years old. There were some moments in the book that I could relate to, and some moments that almost described me perfectly. Dani brought me through my early days at school and some nights I would take it to bed with me and read to my heart’s content.
It is a truly delightful book, and I will never forget it or the series that followed. I own them all and still love them.
Vita and I came to the My Happy Life series well past the recommended reading age but the books quickly captured an eight-year-old and an over-40.
Dani’s family and friends mostly mean well and often behave badly. I love how Dani takes it in, notices everything, describes things so straightforwardly and keeps on in her irrepressible way. Rose Lagercrantz is clever at showing all the funniness and imperfection of the people around Dani with just a word or two. And Eva Eriksson’s faces make me laugh.
My favourite thing about the My Happy Life series is that whenever I brought home a new book, Vita would get out the whole pile and read them through in order before she started the new one. These books are always poised for a good re-reading! And they leave us like Dani’s friend Cushion, insisting, “Write more happy lives!”
Rachel’s daughter Vita
Five Things I Remember about Dani:
1. Ella is her best friend. Where Ella goes Dani follows. Ella and Dani pick each other up and, if they can’t do that, they lie down and listen for a while.
2. Her dad isn’t the best, he’s just okay. Which is okay, but not the best.
3. Dani and Ella have the greatest ideas. Like just what to say when the other doesn’t know what to do.
4. Dani is always very brave and sometimes a little scared. Just like I would be too.
5. Dani can always find Ella.
The My Happy Life series is by Rose Lagercrantz, illustrated by Eva Eriksson, and translated from the original Swedish by Julia Marshall. The series can be enjoyed in order or each book is perfect on its own.
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