My Heart is Laughing

Lagercrantz, Rose. My Heart is Laughing. Wellington, New Zealand: Gecko Press, 2014.
Dani is always happy. Except when she is unhappy. But she does not count those times. This cheerful story about the little adventures of life is filled with quiet wisdom: Don’t give up, even when things seem hopeless. Try to think about something fun when you’re upset. Forgive people. Originally published in Sweden in 2012, this short novel with large print and wide margins is perfect for readers 7 to 10 years old. 

Some stories have an intriguing plot line. Some have finely drawn characters. But very few flow beautifully. Lyrically. And that last quality is what turns a novel into a work of art. Rose Lagercrantz’s story – translated into English by Julia Marshall and illustrated by Eva Eriksson – is a true example of writing as art.

What other novels have such rhythm and grace? Kate DiCamillo’s Because of Winn-Dixie. Cynthia Rylant’s Missing May. Joy Cowley’s Chicken Feathers. Patricia MacLachlan’s Kindred Souls. Margery Sharp’s The Rescuers. Katherine Applegate’s Wishtree….

More great novels for young readers 

Some challenging reads for young readers

Lagrecrantz, Rose. My Happy Life. Wellington, N.Z.: Gecko Press, 2014, c2013.
Want to teach young readers how to recognize theme in novels? Want to use a novel to start philosophical discussions with 7-year-olds? Read this novel aloud and watch for true-to-life sentences.

Lagercrantz, Rose. See You When I See You. Wellington, N.Z.: Gecko Press, 2017.
This novel continues the Dani series. Although not as full of profound truths about life, it is still greatly entertaining.

Pay Attention, Carter Jones

Schmidt, Gary D. Pay Attention, Carter Jones. Boston: Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019.

Life can be chaotic and a bit crazy. That’s normal in a busy family with three kids and a father stationed overseas with the U.S. army. Well, it was normal until a bowler-hatted man appears at the door and announces that he has come from England to help them. His former employer, the children’s grandfather, has left a bequest providing the services of a full-time butler. Mr. Bowles does a lot more than keep the household in order. He helps sixth-grader Carter see life from a new perspective and supports the whole family when there’s a painful surprise. A humorous yet serious story recommended for readers 11 years old and up.

P.S. It’s worth reading all of Gary Schmidt’s novels.

More stories of soldiers

More stories of coping with life





Summer Reading

“One benefit of Summer was that each day we had more light to read by.” – Jeannette Walls, The Glass Castle.

Pendziwol, Jean E. Me and You and the Red Canoe. Toronto: Groundwood, 2017.
Early in the morning, two siblings make a fire and sit together, sipping hot chocolate. They gather their fishing gear, leave everyone else behind, and set off in a red canoe. Told in free verse and illustrated in acrylic on panel. Recommended for readers 7 to 14 years old. [Camping; Fishing; Summer] 

More Stories of Summer

“All in all, it was a never-to-be-forgotten summer — one of those summers which come seldom into any life, but leave a rich heritage of beautiful memories in their going — one of those summers which, in a fortunate combination of delightful weather, delightful friends and delightful doing, come as near to perfection as anything can come in this world.”  – L.M. Montgomery, Anne’s House of Dreams


Learning to write paragraphs

Dear Reader,

In school, you will often be asked to write a quick paragraph. You may be given a topic or asked to write on a topic of your choice. What is an formula you can use to produce a paragraph in just a few minutes?

Try this formula:

  1. Topic sentence.
  2. First reason with examples or evidence.
  3. Second reason with examples or evidence.
  4. Third reason with examples or evidence.
  5. The topic sentence again but reworded so it sounds more dramatic.

Here’s an example by a sixth grade student:

“I love desserts. Firstly, they are beautiful to look at. Desserts can be colourful and can include really bright colours. Designs on them such as swirls and decorations can also make them pleasing to look at. Secondly, desserts are tasty. They can include mixtures of flavours such as sweet and sour. They also have different temperatures so that if you are feeling cold, you can hot desserts and if you are feeling hot, you can eat cold desserts. Some desserts can even be long-lasting, such as frozen yogurt and ice cream, which can fill you taste buds for a longer  time than other desserts. And most importantly, desserts make me happy. They can be eaten on celebrations or at any other happy event. Desserts can satisfy your tongue with flavours which can be very delightful. They can also calm your body if you eat something spicy or are tired in general. Desserts are the best way to make your life better.” Jashan 

Here’s another example:

“I like candy. Firstly, candy is beautiful to look at. For example, the bright pink colour on bubble gum is pretty to look at, and the design on cold chocolate swirl ice cream is cool. Secondly, candy is tasty. For example, sweet and sour gummy bears wake my taste buds up. Jaw breakers are long-lasting, so I can savour the taste for a long time. Lastly, candy makes me happy. For example, the sugar in Hershey bars makes me excited. The colour of confetti ice cream makes me think of celebrating my birthday. All candies are tasty and they make me happy!” Rabia

Practice this sort of formula writing until it easy. Then you’ll be ready for writing paragraphs in grade seven and eight.

Have fun writing and eating!

Ms. R.   

Evidence Paragraphs

Paragraph Checklist

Greathead, Helen. My Chocolate Bar and Other Foods. New York: Crabtree Publishing Company, 2017, c2014.

Chris Hadfield

Hadfield, Chris and Kate Fillion. The Darkest Dark. Toronto: Tundra Books, 2016.

“Do you know the first Canadian to walk in space? If not, I will tell you all about him.

“On August 29, 1959, Chris Hadfield was born in Sarnia, Ontario. As he grew up, he dreamed of being an astronaut. He studied hard in school and after graduating, he attended military college, earning a degree in mechanical engineering. He then trained as a fighter pilot, but he still dreamed of going into space.

“Nine years later, Space Canada announced it was hiring more astronauts. What great news! Hadfield sent in his application, along with 5000 other people. He waited and waited, What would happen? Would he be chosen? Would he achieve his dream?

“Good news came later that year. Hadfield was chosen as one of four new astronauts to go into space!

“For the next three years, Hadfield spent time practising the systems he would be using in space. Finally, on the day of lift-off, the shuttle blasted off. Hadfield went to space for eight days. In 2001, he went back for a second time and walked in space, creating history.

“Many years later, Hadfield got chosen again. On December 19, 2012, Hadfield took off one more time in the biggest spacecraft ever created! Hadfield was in command this time; he and his crew kept busy, sharing more than one hundred videos. When Hadfield came back to earth a few months later, he had become one of the most famous astronauts in the world!

“Today, Hadfield is retired and spends his time telling people what it is like to be an astronaut. He reminds people to work hard to reach their dreams. He inspires them to be prepared for the adventures of life.” – by Rabia in grade six             

More biographies

Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dear Reader,

Many people look to Martin Luther King, Jr. for inspiration. For courage to do what is right in the face of injustice. Here is what a twelve-year-old boy had to say:

“Do you know who Martin Luther King, Jr. was? Do you know why he was so famous?
“Well, today, I will tell you who he was and why he was so famous. Martin was born on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia. Growing up, the King family spent a lot of time in church, listening to Martin’s father preach. At that time, black and white Americans did not have equal rights, and Martin dreamed of equality.
“Martin would fight with words, without violent actions. He would be jailed and beaten, but never give up.
“In 1955, black people had to give up their bus seats for white people. If they refused, they would go to jail. In protest, the black people decided to boycott the bus services.

“After a year of boycotting, the U.S. Supreme Court stepped in, and Martin won! Black people could now ride buses without giving up their seats. This boycott became viral, and by 1957, Martin was famous.

“Martin made many marvelous speeches about racism, and people agreed it was time for a change. Civil right groups joined together and formed the Southern Christian Leadership Council with Martin Luther King as the leader.

“In 1963, King spoke to a huge group of people in Washington, D.C.  He gave the famous speech: “I have a dream.”

“Sadly, Martin was shot outside his motel room on April 4th, 1968. Although he lived a short life, he lived a full life and he changed black people’s lives forever.”   – by Prabhdeep in grade six

“The time is always right to do what is right.”  – Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Books about people of African heritage



Mass, Wendy and Rebecca Stead. Bob. New York: Feiwel and Friends, 2018.
Most of the time, I dislike novels written by more than one author. But this one is an exception. Ten-year-old Livy reluctantly visits her grandmother in Australia and discovers a strange creature hiding in her bedroom closet. Why does she feel she somehow knows him? Why does she feel the need to protect him? This charming story  is highly recommended for readers 10 years old and up who enjoy mythology. It is easy to read and ends happily.
P.S. I generally dislike stories set in present tense and written from the first person point of view, but this novel is an exception again. But then everything published by Feiwil and Friends tends to be magically endearing.

More stories set in Australia

More mysterious stories