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Reading Rockets' children's literature expert, Maria Salvadore, brings you into her world as she explores the best ways to use kids' books both inside — and outside — of the classroom.
Truth (or is it fact?) in fiction
Can a story about a family of mice be realistic? Can readers empathize with a rodent and her family's history? The answer to both is an emphatic yes.
Everyone remembers mice stories by Beatrix Potter (Warne). Think of The Tale of Despereaux (Candlewick). I was again reminded of this when I read a recent book by Rosemary Wells, Following Grandfather (Candlewick).
It's the story of a young mouse, Jenny, who is very close to her grandfather. Grandfather and Jenny share special times while Jenny's parents run the family restaurant (which by the way, shares my surname!). Then one day, Grandfather is gone, "never to come back." Jenny grieves terribly and continues to see Grandfather on the beach and in Boston — until the touching resolution.
This small volume is about family history, loss, and remembrance. It also provides a bit of history about old Boston families and a commentary about class.
The mouse characters are depicted in soft, evocative illustrations by Christopher Denise. They ideally complement the tone and capture the setting of the narrative. (It's interesting to note that the gentle images were digitally created.)
Is there truth, even some factual information in this book? Sure there is. Beyond accepting the difficulty of the loss of a grandparent, the short chapters present attitudes of a maybe not-so-long-ago Boston.
However, what stands out in this book is its emotional authenticity. Readers of any age are likely to grasp the truths in this fiction.