Book Review: See You When I See You, by Rose Lagercrantz, illustrated by Eva Erikksson

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_see_you_when_I_see_youSee You When I See You is the fifth book in the Dani series, about a girl starting the second year of school. The previous four books set the scene for Dani, a girl whose mother is dead and whose Dad spent a long time in hospital recently recovering from an accident. Understanding this context is useful, as without it the story seems oddly complex.

Dani has a bad start to a special day when her Dad asks her if it is OK for his friend Sadie to come over and cook dinner. It is clear from the story that Dani is not happy about this.

That day it is time for Dani’s annual school trip to the Skansen Zoo. The children go on a bus to the zoo, get a lecture about what to do if they are lost and happily have close encounters with some animals. Sadly, two of Dani’s classmates are mean to her, and in her distress she runs away. She remembers to follow the instructions of her teacher, and returns to the last place she saw her class. Suddenly she comes across her best friend, Ella. Ella is at a different school and the children make the most of the happy chance to go off and play.

The books are designed for children aged 5-7 and the publisher, Gecko Press, notes that ‘The series fills a gap of good reading for five- to seven-year-olds. It gives them a proper grown-up reading experience that is accessible but also has emotional weight.’

My seven-year-old daughter very much enjoyed the book, and I could hear the voice of seven-year-old’s in the story. With a seven-year-old’s understanding, not everything in the story is explained. We both enjoyed the illustrations, which show a child’s view of the action.

Books from this series would make a great gift for young readers, particularly those who would enjoy reading their own chapter books.

Reviewed by Emma Rutherford.

See You When I See You
by Rose Lagercrantz
Illustrated by Eva Erikksson
Published by Gecko Press
ISBN 9781776571307

Junior Fiction Shorts #2: Life According to Dani, Rona, and The Sam & Lucy Fables

There are a number of strong independent publishers based in Wellington, and these three books prove the point. Each of them is individual and necessary, and a lot of fun.

Life According to Dani, by Rose Lagercrantz and Eva Eriksson

cv_life_according_to_daniThis is the fourth in this beautiful series exploring Dani’s life, and the emotional world our children have within them. Dani is in her happy place, with her best friend Ella on Ella’s part-time island, swimming in the sea, and making cookbooks, and selling buns and tea to the tourists who come by on the ferry. But the reason she is there is not so happy: her dad is still recovering from being run over by a car, and has been in hospital for months. Then one night, dad doesn’t phone…

As with many of Gecko’s writers, Lagercrantz and Eriksson have an uncanny way of getting under the skin of children and understanding their complicated lives – not underestimating them. I have most of the books in this series (and hadn’t realised I had missed one), and my son has benefited from them in times when he has been unsure of himself. The joy, and the sadness, of childhood is beautifully captured. Highly recommended for kids aged 4 – 9.

Life According to Dani
by Rose Lagercrantz, illustrated by Eva Eriksson
Published by Gecko Press
ISBN 9781776570713

by Chris Szekely and Josh Morgan

To be Released on 30 November 2016
cv_ronaIn contrast with Frankie Potts, Rona is a thoroughly New Zealand heroine, who when born was ‘so busy arguing she forgot to cry.’ She lives with her grandparents, and is part of a fantastic whanau. As the book opens, her cousin Jessie has come to stay for the school holidays. They go bridge-jumping and swimming in the local river, and Rona takes joy in playing pranks on her cousin, who is under her thrall. One of these pranks goes awry, with Rona’s pride & joy, a gold-trimmed Royal wedding mug, breaking in half as a result. Easy enough to fix, if it wasn’t for Granddad’s dog Snuffy…

There are two stories in this book, and the second story sees Rona tell some tall tales about her name’s origin at school, and deal with the consequences of plagiarising her uncle’s poem, while at home she helps nanna get the house ready for Christmas, with a brilliant bunch of family members. This is all about the comfort of routine, as Rona helps grandma bake the Christmas cake, granddad mow the lawn – and they go and buy a tree from the service station for once, which Rona keeps secret from grandma. Illustrations throughout from Josh Morgan add another element of fun to a very enjoyable story. This is a hugely relatable and comforting story, perfect to share with or gift to a child age 5-8.

by Chris Szekely and Josh Morgan
Published by Huia Publishing
ISBN 9781775501985

The Sam & Lucy Fables, by Alan Bagnall & Sarah Wilkins

cv_the_sam_and_lucy_fablesSam & Lucy are some pretty darn wise pigs. These are their stories, slightly reminiscent in format of Snake & Lizard, but with a fable that sees us learn something new about why the world is as it is at the end of each story. Every story has a guaranteed ‘is that true?!’ at the end of it, and Sarah Wilkins’ illustrations add wistful joy to each of the tales, each of which is more outlandish than the next.

My favourite fables are those with just the pigs, putting the world to rights – my absolute favourite being the Bus Stop story (hint: there’s always a bus there.) I highly recommend this for a book to read this holidays, perhaps in the back of a car on the way to a camping trip, where you may just see some flying carpets.

The Sam & Lucy Fables
by Alan Bagnall & Sarah Wilkins
Published by Submarine, with the help of Whitireia Publishing
ISBN 9780994129987


There are a couple more books I’d like to mention in the independent vein of things, which have landed on my desk more recently. Snails, Spells and Snazzlepops by Robyn Cooper is another from the Submarine imprint of Makaro Press, and looks like great fun; and if Lily Max: Slope, Style, Fashion from Luncheon Sausage Books is as good as the first Lily Max, (Satin, Scissors, Frock) it’s sure to be a hit. Jane Bloomfield has created an addictive character in Lily Max, and I look forward to reading this excerpt in her adventures.

All books reviewed by Sarah Forster 
And check out the first part of her junior fiction round-up here! 


Book Review: When I am happiest, by Rose Lagercrantz & Eva Eriksson

Available in bookstores nationwide from 1 August 2015.
It was my absolute pleasure to review My Heart is Laughing, the book that immediately precedes this one and although all three books that have been written featuring Dani are stand-alone, they make a fabulous series. They are beautifully written, warm, compassionate, filled with nuggets of wisdom and very real in outlook.

Life is humming along for young Dani, holidays are beckoning and then life with a nasty surprise intrudes and Dani, in her bewilderment and pain wonders if she will ever be happy again….

At the heart of this book is love and friendship and they power they wield in young lives. The book is filled with characters who are easily recognisable and as real as can be, the line drawings that illustrate this book add a very special illumination to the characters and to the various situations they are part of. It is a very rare illustrator who can capture emotion as Eva Eriksson does, but boy does she nail it.

The Dani stories are excellent beginner chapter books for children to self-read and as a shared reading experience, there is the occasional issue that would need adult input and explanation but the book provides the tools to facilitate this through the illustrations. I  think the relationships between the children and adults are particularly strong in this book and nothing has been lost in the translation, an adult reading to a child would get the Swedish humour in certain parts. Julia Marshall does an excellent translation.

Simply put, this is another first class book from author, illustrator, translator and the wonderful Gecko Press, children and adults alike will love it!

Reviewed by Marion Dreadon

When I am happiest
by Rose Lagercrantz & Eva Eriksson
Published by Gecko Press
ISBN 9781927271896

Book Review: When Dad Showed Me the Universe, by Ulf Stark, illustrated by Eva Eriksson

Available in bookstores nationwide.

This is a beautiful tale, told from the point of view of a small cv_when_dad_showed_me_the_universechild. This story encapsulates the experience of being a child and being a parent brilliantly, and the descriptive language is wonderful and quirky. It isn’t often you encounter a picture book that refers to the flecks of blood on a dentists white lab coat!

The dad in this story is hoping to show his child the universe, so takes him out in the dark one evening after he finishes work. He builds the anticipation for an unknown trip so that the child is excited yet concerned that they don’t know what the universe is. They reach the place that the father calls the universe, only for the child to consider wonders closer to the ground as the universe – which of course they were, yet the father says this is silly and shows him the stars; his “universe”.

It is quite rare now to come across illustrations that are so finely wrought that you feel each pencil stroke was placed with care. Even the cover of this book is utterly beautiful, and the current of the story carried throughout by the illustrations was subtle and wonderful. There is beauty in things as they are completing – shops closing, empty toddler’s pools. Eriksson is incredibly good at animals as well, as frequently exemplified in her books, including the wonderful All the Dear Little Animals, a 2007 title from Gecko Press.

My 4-year-old, Dan, is a sensitive soul and this story struck a chord with him. I asked him what he thought of the book, what his favourite parts were, and he loved the dad’s point of view of the universe, which was interesting. Perhaps he didn’t want to be seen as “silly”… The message about childhood as a time of wonderful naivete is well-told.

But equally, I sympathise with the father who says “All I wanted was to show you something beautiful that you’d remember forever.” From a young age, I have taken Dan on trips that I hoped for him to remember later in life. When Dan was only 2-and-a-half I took him kicking and screaming to Baby Pops – a child-oriented orchestral show, which he ended up enjoying – but the reason I was so determined to take him, despite the post-nap tantrum (I also ended up crying), was because I thought he would love it – I wanted him to see it as special.

I also took a 3-and-a-half year-old Dan to the botanical gardens when they were done up with lights last year during the Arts Festival. I asked him whether he remembered them recently and he didn’t (sadly).

So perhaps we as parents just need to learn that they will create their own memories. The magic is in your children. They may not be the memories you select for them, but they will be all the more precious for it. You just need to make sure they are good ones: that they have a huge store of these to choose from.

Reviewed by Sarah Forster

When Dad Showed Me the Universe
by Ulf Stark, illustrated by Eva Eriksson (translated by Julia Marshall)
Published by Gecko Press
ISBN 9781927271827

My Heart is Laughing, by Rose Lagercrantz and Eva Eriksson

cv_my_heart_is_laughingAvailable now from bookstores nationwide.

The cover alone would make anyone, child or adult want to pick up this gorgeous chapter book, two young girls with side splitting grins,a loopy tree and bananas, could not be more enticing.

Happiness however is not the total sum of this book, Dani is struggling to be happy because her best friend Ella has moved away, leaving her lonely and out of sorts, not sure exactly where she will fit in especially at school, where Dani tries awfully hard to keep Ella’s absence as only temporary.

We journey with Dani through pain, loss, grief, anger, confusion and bullying. Dani’s loss manifests itself in frustration and its companion…the temper tantrum rears it’s head and are spectacular and actually understandable.

The book isn’t gloomy and there is some delightful humour and a wonderful sense of adventure surrounds Dani and Ella’s relationship.

The characters in this book deserve a special mention, they are very well drawn and if not always nice, they are interesting and this combined with the illustrations, which are simply divine and so realistic make this a very engaging and relatable story, illustrations that match a story are not always seen but in this case they are just right for the situation they are illustrating.

As always Gecko Press have done a great job, my only query would be the age-appropriateness of this book…my experience tells me that the nuances of this book would go over the heads of anybody under 7-8 years of age.

My heart is laughing is suitable for both girls and boys and the issues raised in the book and the way they are handled make it particularly good for a small group/classroom reading and discussion situation, it would also be a good read for any child struggling with life issues and would also suit a situation where a concerned parent needs a discussion opener.

Reviewed by Marion Dreadon

My Heart is Laughing
by Rose Lagercrantz and Eva Eriksson, translated by Julia Marshall
Published by Gecko Press
ISBN 9781877579516