A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Annie's mother dies in the very first chapter. The information is imparted directly but with a gentle tone ("...nobody, absolutely nobody expected Mrs. Rossi to die."). Through this story about loss and healing, readers will receive messages of family solidarity, patience, empathy, gentle and steady love, and the importance of community support. Annie is honest about her feelings, even if she doesn't really understand them. Her emotions are sometimes messy -- Annie can be jealous, impetuous, and bossy -- but readers will relate to the pain she feels. Mr. Rossi is devoted to Annie and very patient with her, and the school community is supportive.
What's the story?
Eight-year-old Annie Rossi lives a happy life in a New York City apartment with her two teacher parents. But when Mrs. Rossi dies unexpectedly, Annie and her father must forge a new life together. They take night walks whenever they can't sleep, ending up at the local cafe to eat waffles at 2 a.m. Sometimes Annie accompanies her father to his job as a professor at Columbia University, but other days she goes to school as usual. Annie cherishes a book of letters, written by Mrs. Rossi's former students, which describe their feelings and experiences with Mrs. Rossi. The book provides much comfort and Annie likes to read it over and over. Annie sometimes feels angry with her father and blames him for all the ways he is not her mother. And Mr. Rossi is always very patient with Annie. Together, they learn to express what is in their hearts and search for ways to "keep Mommy close...and let her go...." The book of letters from students is compiled at the back so readers can learn more about Mrs. Rossi as a person and teacher.
Is it any good?
This book is a gentle portrayal of one family's journey with loss. This book is not awash with great depths of emotion and drama, but focuses instead on how tenderness and understanding can lead to healing. Mr. Rossi is constantly supportive of Annie in his quiet way, absorbing whatever she throws at him. Annie tries to claim familiarity but slowly comes to terms with her new reality. While Annie does seem younger than her eight years at times, readers will be able to relate to many of her emotions. At the core of this story is a family connected by love and devotion, and readers will be confident that they will make their way without Mrs. Rossi. Readers who have experienced loss may find comfort in these pages, while other readers may find important insights about loss and love.
Readers will be moved by Heather Harms Maione's illustrations, which add another layer to this touching story.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the topic of loss in children's books. What books have you read in which the main character has lost one or both parents -- or someone else they loved? In what ways do the characters react the same way -- in which ways do they react differently?
This book includes letters that Mrs. Rossi's students write after the death of their teacher. Parents might want to talk about the role that writing can play in healing -- how does it help Mrs. Rossi's students? How does it help Annie?
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