Letters to Leo

illus. by Julia Denos. 152p. Candlewick. Mar. 2012. Tr $14.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-3695-1. LC number unavailable.
RedReviewStarGr 2–4—Annie, first introduced to readers in Remembering Mrs. Rossi (Candlewick, 2007), lives with her dad in New York City and is now in fourth grade. Her new best friend, a floppy-haired puppy named Leo, is helping her cope with schoolwork, an icky boy, and a best friend who is moving away. She writes letters to him, and reads them to him at night. Through them, readers learn about her hopes and sorrows, many of which revolve around her widowed father. The epistolary format makes for easily manageable reading segments, good for those kids for whom reading is a struggle. Upbeat and chirpy, and decorated with lots of kid-style illustrations, Leo evokes empathy with a light touch.—Paula Willey, Baltimore County Public Library, Towson, MD
Fourth-grader Annie, (Remembering Mrs. Rossi), is still adjusting to life after her mother's death. She gets a dog, Leo, and writes letters to him, journal-style, much like the late Mrs. Rossi's students wrote letters to Annie. Illustrated with doodles and lists, the letters allow her time to reflect and heal. Readers will enjoy watching Annie grow as a friend and a daughter.
Annie Rossi is a fourth grader through and through. One day she is having "the best fourth grade day ever" and the next she is missing her beloved third grade teacher, Miss Meadows. One minute she’s happily packing for a sleepover, the next she’s homesick and calling her dad to come pick her up. And, as readers of Remembering Mrs. Rossi (rev. 5/07) will know, Annie is still adjusting to life after her mother’s death. Her father, the reserved professor, has softened in one important area: he allows Annie to adopt a small dog, Leo. Annie writes letters to her beloved dog, journal-style, much like the late Mrs. Rossi’s students wrote letters to Annie. Annie is healing, but there are times when her honest words let everyone know that the pain is still there. It’s doubtful whether a fourth grader would actually write so many letters to a dog, but no matter -- the letters reveal details of Annie’s life and are illustrated with the doodles and lists so common to elementary-school children. Annie needs an outlet for her emotions, and her letters allow her the time to reflect, putting her mother’s death into some sort of perspective. Middle graders will enjoy watching Annie grow up as a friend and a daughter. robin l. smith

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