Annie lives with her father, Professor Rossi, in New York City, where the two of them are mourning the loss of Annie’s mom, Mrs. Rossi, who was a sixth grade teacher. The mourning process is very difficult, especially for Annie, who finds that her dad just doesn’t do things the way her mom would. Both Annie and her dad find solace, however, in a book created by Mrs. Rossi’s sixth graders in which they share their memories of their beloved teacher.
Thanks to Jennifer’s review at Jean Little Library, I recently learned that Letters to Leo, which I previously reviewed, is actually a sequel to this book! Remembering Mrs. Rossi provides the backstory about Annie’s mother’s death, and her fondness for her teacher, Miss Meadows. Though Letters to Leo made perfect sense without this background, I enjoyed fitting the pieces together and getting a better sense of Annie’s personality and circumstances. I also thought it was interesting that each book incorporated documents. In Letters to Leo, Annie writes letters to her dog; in Remembering Mrs. Rossi, Mrs. Rossi’s students write notes, essays, and stories for Annie and her dad.
I think the greatest strength of Remembering Mrs. Rossi is its portrayal of Annie’s emotions. We understand Annie’s grief and longing for her mother, but we also see little glimmers of hope as things begin to settle into a routine once again. We even see moments of happiness as Annie remembers her mother. The story is gentle in its presentation of each emotion, and kids who have lost a parent will no doubt appreciate those careful nudges toward healing much more than any heavy-handed preaching.
My only complaint is about the way the book is divided. The first portion of the story is straight prose from Annie’s point of view, while the second part is the entirety of the book the sixth graders write about Mrs. Rossi. Since Annie reads and rereads the tributes to her mother throughout the story, I thought it might have been a better idea to mix the two segments of the book together, so that the reader could see directly how Annie’s thoughts and actions are influenced by memories of her mother. It was still interesting to read this way, but it wasn’t especially cohesive, and I started losing interest towards the end.
This is an excellent book to recommend to kids who have lost their mom, and also a nice way to inspire kids to help friends or classmates who might be going through a similar loss. I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary to read this first book in order to enjoy Letters to Leo, kids who like to know the whole story will definitely want to read both.
I borrowed Remembering Mrs. Rossi from my local public library.