My Heart is Laughing

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My heart is laughing

LAGERCRANTZ, Rose (text) Eva Erickson (illus.) My Heart is Laughing Gecko Press, 2014 120pp NZ$19.99 ISBN 9781877579516 SCIS 1646661

This is a delightfully illustrated chapter book whereby image and narrative subtly blend to create a moving portrait of the life of young 6-7 year old girl negotiating the complexities of school friendships.  It is more about nuances than high drama, evident in the artist’s soft grey palette, sketching, and cross-hatching.  Dani is a happy youngster, comfortable in her own skin, but when her best friend Ella leaves, Dani has to try and blend in with the class and make new friends.  Things get complicated when two girls (especially Vicki who has fallen in love with just about every boy in the class) are rejected by Cushion who instead makes overtures towards Dani.  He gives her some gum.  Love thwarted can create havoc and Dani is ill-prepared for the consequences.  She recalls (in her innocent way) aspects of her past with Ella (who has a complicated life story) and prefers her own company.  The teacher insists that she sits at lunchtime with the thwarted girls and thus begins the central conflict: bullying and its consequences.  Even the teacher cops an eyeful!  Dani is wrongfully blamed and it takes a while for her father to be her protector parent.  Big questions can be negotiated though this story: is forgiveness possible even if there is no confession?  What is the nature of true friendship?  Teaching notes can be found on the website.  Highly recommended.

reviewed by John McKenzie

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