Trying to come to terms with the death of a loved one is never easy. I lost my grandmother when I was sixteen, and I found it very hard to pull myself out of my grief. For young children, coming to terms with such a loss is even harder because it does not seem to make any sense.
Today's fiction title by Rosemary Wells beautifully shows how one little mouse comes to terms with a death in the family. It is warming and reassuring, and it explores a difficult topic with great sensitivity and sweetness.
Illustrated by Christopher Denise
For ages 7 to 9
Candlewick Press, 2012, 978-0-7636-5609-8
Jenny is a young mouse who has a very close relationship with her grandfather. Grandfather came to America as a stowaway in a ship, and he made a home, and then a business, for himself in Salvadore’s Spaghetti House. Grandfather’s restaurant was a great success, and now it is being run by Jenny’s parents, and Grandfather has taken over the job of taking care of Jenny. Together the two mice walk explore Boston and go to the seaside, and when Jenny is a “young lady,” Grandfather takes her to buy frock. He also teaches her to hold her head high, even when the Cabot Lodges and the other wealthy mice look down on her. Jenny may be “the child of humble cooks,” but she must always have whiskers that are as “straight as arrows.”
Jenny’s beloved grandfather teaches Jenny all kinds of valuable lessons and tells her wonderful stories. Then, out of the blue, Grandfather is gone. Mice from all over Boston attend Grandfather’s funeral, even the Cabot Lodges. Poor Jenny is so grief stricken that she cannot be comforted, much to her parents’ distress. She cannot imagine how she is supposed to go on without her grandfather.
Losing someone you love is always painful, but for the young such a loss can be devastating and incomprehensible. In this beautifully written and illustrated story, we come to appreciate how special Jenny’s grandfather is, and we see how the little mouse struggles to come to terms with her grief.