Every once in a while, we read a children’s book like “Letters to Leo” by Amy Hest and just have to share. Our friend Melissa Young from Sweet on Books explains more:
What You Need to Know:
• Letters to Leo is a funny book written entirely in letter form; the letters are from a little girl to her dog.
• I gave Letters to Leo a “Mild Concerns” rating ONLY because the main character’s mother has passed away. This is not meant to scare off any readers; it is just to prepare those readers that may have experienced a similar loss.
• While this book references that loss of a parent, it is not a book about death (at all!).
• However, the prequel to this book, Remembering Mrs. Rossi, is about the death of that character.
Annie Rossi is a plucky little girl who has always wanted a dog. One day, her downstairs neighbor arrives with ten month old Leo, and he tells her that his mom won’t let him keep the dog. Happily, her dad, Professor Rossi, allows Annie to keep the dog! Annie’s letters to Leo begin as warnings and instructions to the puppy about proper behavior, about how to live with his new family in an apartment in New York City. Do be quiet; don’t bark at the neighbors in the elevator.
But, for this fourth grader, the letters quickly turn into a chronicle of life in the Big Apple. Some of the issues Annie works out in her letters to Leo include: exasperating dads, friends moving, annoying boys, gym class blunders, and being scared at a sleepover. Occasionally, Annie references her late mother, but, as stated above, this is not a book about loss. I think this book will actually help children who have experienced loss. While the loss of Annie’s mother is ever present, it shows that Annie can and does continue to live a normal life. Any child who has suffered a similar loss will be comforted by this knowledge, and any child that hasn’t, will begin to understand that their friends who have lost someone have not changed. They are still just like them.
I most enjoyed getting to know Annie and her dog, Leo. She is a funny and brave little girl that children will learn a thing or two from, especially about resilience in the face of terrible tragedy. Also, kids will be attracted to Leo. Who doesn’t love a puppy? Julia Denos’ illustrations are just so inviting, that children will love them. This is a winning combination for your reader.
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