Thursday, March 5, 2009


As a teacher, there are some situations that I hope my students never have to face. Loss of a pet. A serious illness. The death of a parent or grandparent, or friend or sibling.  Sadly, life happens, and these situations are inevitable. When they occur, I want to be ready. And as anyone who knows me will tell you, for me, part of being ready means having the right book. Throughout my career I've assembled a small collection of books I go to when children are grieving: BADGER'S PARTING GIFT, FIG PUDDING, MISSING MAY, and MICK HARTE  WAS HERE, when they are missing a person or DOG/CAT HEAVEN and THE TENTH GOOD THING ABOUT BARNEY for a four-legged friend. Yesterday I found a new book to add to this collection.

REMEMBERING MRS. ROSSI is a story of loss, and missing, and beginning again. The book begins with a brief, almost fairy tale-ish prologue Annie Rossi is eight years old. She lives with her mother, a sixth grade teacher, and father, a professor, in an apartment in New York City, and summers in a cottage at the beach. One day Annie's mother gets sick. She is taken to the hospital and dies of pneumonia. 

The book traces Annie and her father's journey over that long, hard, first year of re-creating their lift together. Mr. Rossi has to work, and can't indulge in Annie's favorite snowy day traditions, so he takes her to his college class. Annie doesn't know how to make a birthday cake, so she and a beloved babysitter buy  chocolate cupcakes for her father's special day. That summer, Annie and her father remake their life at the beach. 

In one of the first chapters, Annie and her father go to an assembly at her mother's school. Mrs. Rossi's class presents them with REMEMBERING MRS. ROSSI, a book they have written in honor of their beloved teacher.  Each child has contributed something- a story, or poem, and even a science experiment, sharing their favorite memories of Mrs. Rossi, or their feelings about her death.  Annie keeps the book under her mattress and reads it every night before she goes to bed. All of these student entries are included in the back of Amy Hest's wonderful book. (From a writing teacher's point of view, I'd love to share these entries with kids as mentor texts for writing character sketches or sympathy notes. I'd also share the note Annie writes to the class to thank them for the book).
REMEMBERING MRS. ROSSI is an important addition to any library. It's a sad, yet hopeful book, about beginning again. It's a book I hope I never have to use, but it's also a book I'm very glad to have found. 

1 comment:

Lauren said...

Sounds like a book that would hit home with me. When I was in third grade, my teacher got sick. We watched in horror as Ms. Nolan's condition gradually worsened, and eventually a long-term sub finished out the school year with us. I remember vividly the last day of school we were brought to the library, and there was Ms. Nolan in a wheelchair. She read us a story and wished us success in fourth grade.

She passed away a couple months later.