Happy Hearts

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Jevita Nilson (text) and Marina Zlatanova (illustrator), Happy Hearts, New Holland Publishers, August 2020, 28 pp., RRP $19.99 (hbk), ISBN 9781760791445

Little Zachary is in search of heaven.

He is sad that his Nanna is no longer with him, and to find her spirit he packs his bag one night and climbs out of his bedroom window in search of his Nanna.

Will Zachary find her, and be at peace with his lost heart?

Jevita Nilson touches on the subject of death experienced by many but not always discussed. This can be a particularly challenging topic for young children who may struggle to understand the sudden separation they experience on losing a loved one.

Happy Hearts captures a little boy’s heartache beautifully from page to page. The story and text are well written and shift effortlessly to rhyme when Zachary imagines his happy place. Readers are able to experience Zachary’s sadness through to its stirring conclusion, and the story provides plenty of opportunity to discuss grief and how to navigate young children through this challenging time.

Marina Zlatanova’s illustrations have a dream-like quality and quietly capture the warm and irrevocable bond between Zachary and his Nanna.

Pictures can be a wonderful way for children to express their feelings and art therapy has known benefits in dealing with a range of challenging life issues. Teachers can accompany the reading of the book with drawing activities to capture a child’s happy place or draw a picture about how they are feeling.

Happy Hearts is a touching story about finding peace after loss and discovering our own way of saying goodbye to a loved one.

The publishers of this book are supporters of the Starlight Children’s Foundation and proceeds go towards the Foundation.

Reviewed by Shelley Stephens

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