Real stories about resilience

Where Dani goes, Happy follows is the stand-alone follow-up to the acclaimed, bittersweet early chapter books series by Swedish longtime collaborators Rose Lagercrantz and Eva Eriksson, which started with My Happy Life in 2012, then followed by My heart is laughing (2014),  When I am happiest (2015), Life according to Dani (2016) and See you when I see you (2017).

The story
Dani is six and she lives in the yellow house on Home Street with her father, with Cat and two hamsters.
"Happy Dani", as her teacher calls her. In fact, she is probably the happiest person she knows. 
She is kind of sure, since she lies awake at night counting all the times she’s been happy. 
Like most children her age she has several contrasting feelings which are not easy to understand and live with. Happiness is a bumpy road: she’s excited about starting school but worried that she will not make friends, she raises her hand “even though she thought she might faint.” 

But then things get better, she meets Ella and they become inseparable friends, just to find out that Ella is moving to another town, and that she will not be back in year two (My Happy Life). 
While trying to process the loss of her special friend, Dani faces the other children's cruelty at school (My heart is laughing). Writing a book about her happy life turns out to be a therapeutic choice and Dani happily makes it to the last day of school, when someone knocks at the classroom door and she is called out, to be told that her Dad had a car accident. 
How can Dani be happy again? (When I am happiest). 
While her dad is in hospital recovering, she spends the summer with Ella at her holiday house on an island of the Archipelago. Days are filled with laughter, long swims and nature, waiting for dad's daily call. Until one day he doesn't call..he is travelling to the island , accompanied by a nurse, which turns out to be her new girlfriend. Dani's happy summer is over (Life according to Dani). 

Dani meets Ella again during a school trip at the zoo (See you when I see you) but she is sad again when the Winter break starts. Her dad decides to go to Rome to visit his Italian family and to think about his life, but instead of going to Rome, Dani goes to live with grandma and grandpa again.
Dad was very sad once, when Dani's mother died, and now he is that way again, but he doesn't want to talk about it.
With the blessing of her bizarre Grandma, who can't drive as she is busy with her bridge friends' annual dinner, she embarks alone on train trip to reach the only thing that can make her happy again, her friend Ella. 
Dani plans to make her a surprise for her birthday but messes up with the date and the trip does not go as expected. Despite a few misadventures along the way, Dani finally finds out what can make her dad, and therefore herself, happy again (Where Dani goes, happy follows).

Why do we love this series?
Because Dani's adventures are told in a simple yet original way (the 6 year old kind of simple),  since they reveal an an unexpected amount of reality and so many kids details which keep us firmly anchored to Dani's point of view, showing that resilience is not achieved through some who know which parenting strategy, but it's something occurring naturally, almost magically in children, and that can be learnt.
Here we have death, illness, hospitals, separation, friendship, single parent families, funny grandparents, divorce and extended families: a plethora of situations that many children experience in life and that are so little represented in children's books, since it is so difficult to get the tone of voce right.
Lagercrantz tells these stories with lightness and empathy but there's no need to sugarcoat them, as the entire focus is on Dani's optimism, on her ability to recover and to respond to the many surprises of life. Lagercrantz speaks the language of childhood, offering a safe place from where young readers can observe reality and the roller coaster of life.
That's why these books are not really about grief or loss or school challenges or any other specific theme, they are about how children process negative experiences, whether it’s a friend moving away or a classroom fight, or more 'serious' things like meeting dad's new girlfriend or the illness of a family member.
Even if not all young readers will relate with all the situations presented in the books, they will be  ravished by the fact that they are real. They can therefore safely imagine to live those stories themselves as they are offered a positive way to respond to them. 
Written by Rose Lagercrantz
Illustrated by Eva Eriksson
English-language edition published by Gecko Press
Reading age: 5+
Themes: Friendship, Growing up, Chapter Books
My Happy Life is about children’s natural and learned resilience, 
the incredible bouncing back that never ceases to surprise their worn-down parents. 
The book’s intended readers may not realise they are reading about anything unusually prized, 
but they will recognise they’re on to something quite splendid. 
If only all early chapter books were this beautifully conceived. 

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