From School Library Journal
Grade 4-6–Loss and healing play a central part in this gentle and moving story of an Italian immigrant family. Set in Chicago in the 1960s, the plot focuses on Rosa, an only child. While visiting her friend, she becomes enthralled with AnnaMaria's baby brother and soon begins praying for her own. When her mother becomes pregnant, Rosa is overjoyed. But the labor and delivery are difficult and the infant is stillborn. Afterward, Rosa's mother is physically and emotionally shattered, her father is angry, and Rosa feels guilty, sad, and lost. Gradually she begins to lean on her friends and extended family as she learns to cope with her loss. The story unfolds layer by layer, revealing each character's personality, secrets, and flaws. The author does not spare the difficulty of the situation and realistically depicts the ramifications of the tragedy. The healing is drawn honestly and the ending is ultimately hopeful. Italian words are defined in context and included in a glossary.–Kristen Oravec, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Strongsville, OH
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*Starred Review* Gr. 4-6. Ten-year-old Rosa, the only child of Italian immigrants living in 1960s Chicago, is thrilled when she learns that her prayers to the Virgin Mary have been answered: a sibling is on the way. But the infant is stillborn, leaving her mother gravely ill, her father angry and distant, and Rosa feeling more sola
(alone) than ever. Unerring in her grasp of Rosa's bewildered, stricken voice, Martino offers a child's-eye view of the yawning "empty-cave feeling" of bereavement and of the well-meaning but overwhelming relatives, especially a prickly, bossy aunt, who swoop in to help. As middle-grade readers follow Rosa through the ups and downs of the grieving process, they'll be drawn through the pages by illuminating details of the immigrant experience, from the ritual planting of tomato seedlings to Rosa's particular gift at spelling, helped by the Italians' tendency to pronounce all the tricky silent letters in English words. A subplot involving the annual spelling bee serves as a realistic dramatic centerpiece without diluting the tough themes of loss and reconciliation at the story's core. Offering a great deal of nuance within an approachable narrative, this tender novel glows with affection and hope for its grieving family--and with promise for its first-time author. A glossary will help children with the few Italian words not readily understood through context. Similarly searing portraits of young people grappling with tragic loss can be found in Ruth Wallace-Brodeur's Blue Eyes Better
(2002), about a 10-year-old who loses her brother in a drunk-driving accident, and Doris Buchanan Smith's A Taste of Blackberries
(1973), a short chapter book that shows a boy coming to terms with the death of his best friend. Jennifer MattsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved