A chapter book about childhood depression paradoxically delivers a very happy reading experience.
Dani can’t sleep the night before school starts, and with good reason. Will she like it? Will she be forced to spend all her time learning? Luckily, she makes a new best friend on Day 2. Dani and Ella sit together at lunchtime, choose each other for partners, establish the Night Club (an ambitious name for sleepovers) and even wear two halves of one heart necklace. Nothing can come between them, except, all of a sudden, “thousands of streets and roads” between Dani’s town and Ella’s new house, where she has to move with her family. Dani is no stranger to loss; her mother died when she was younger, but when she loses Ella, her happy mood succumbs to depression. New hamsters help. New friends help. But what really helps is the promise of a visit. Acclaimed Swedish writer Lagercrantz applies exactly the right amount of whimsical childhood observation and attitude to a serious exploration of a very young, broken heart. Eriksson’s pen-and-ink illustrations supply a simple yet wholly engaged context for these small, brave characters.
A sweet read for both children and their parents, who may be grateful at the reminder of the emotional complexity lurking behind their children’s smiles. (Fiction. 6-10)