Forty-six pages into Dani’s happy, second-to-last day at school, her teacher takes her out to the hallway, newly informed that “Your father has been run over….He was biking to work.”
As with the previous two books about Dani, My Happy Life (2013) and My Heart Is Laughing (2014), this book is unerringly honest about the experiences and feelings of both children and adults. However, its shocking, melodramatic plot pushes the envelope. Readers learn that Dani is motherless, but otherwise all is initially light humor, as in classmates’ insertion of thumbtacks into the soles of their shoes for tap dancing. Dani is preparing finishing touches on her masterpiece, a book about happiness, when the bad news comes. The emotions that accompany a child in shock are realistic, and Dani’s grandparents and her beloved cousin, Sven, play a role in helping her cope. Although tragedies occur daily in real life, it’s asking a lot of chapter-book readers to master emotions along with decoding skills by reading such sentences as, “And so it is that Dani, on the second-to-last day of school, goes to the hospital where her father lies sleeping so deeply that he might never wake up again.” What is perhaps intended as comic relief feels ghoulish, as in a classmate’s note: “I hope your father gets better so you don’t have to go to an orphanage!” The black-and-white illustrations are sweetly appealing.
More likely to create anxiety than to cultivate empathy or sympathy. (Fiction. 5-7)