|Petra Mathers: Kisses from Rosa|
REVIEWS OF KISSES FROM ROSA BY PETRA MATHERS.
A quiet memoir, filled with precise images and emotional details. Faded photos featuring the author as a girl, her mother and father, her Aunt Mookie, and other family members grace the endpapers and introduce the characters in this auto biographical story. Rosa is sent to stay with her aunt and cousin who live on a farm in the Black Forest while her mother, who has tuberculosis, convalesces in a hospital. Rosa is a city girl, but she adjusts to country life, making jam, picking apples, visiting cows and neighbors. It's a happy time, except, of course, she misses her mother, to whom she writes to every Sunday, sending kisses in each letter. Finally, her mother writes to tell her that she can come home for Christmas. Rosa goes the way she came, in a taxi, but now she has memories of the farm to keep her company. The full-page paintings, in a country primitive style, portray everyday experiences and convey the same immediacy as the text. A departure from the quirky humor of Mathers's previous works, this heartfelt story has a charm of its own.
~ Karen K. Radtke, Milwaukee Public Library
While her mother recuperates from the whistling noise in her lungs in a "special hospital high up in the mountains," Rosa is sent to stay with her aunt Mookie and cousin Birgit in the Black Forest. Rosa misses her mother badly but comes to love her new family and delight in the summer pleasures of the farm, which is so different from her city home. Every Sunday, Rosa writes her mother with Mookie's help, telling her in words and pictures of all the goings-on. In each letter, Rosa includes a special kiss-a fluttery butterfly kiss, a wet fish kiss-kisses that her mother says help her get better. Finally, Rosa receives word that she and her mother will be reunited for Christmas. Though thrilled, Rosa knows she will miss her farm family. This carefully told and lovingly rendered book is based on the author's own childhood. In a note to the reader, Mathers explains that her own mother suffered from tuberculosis and went away for months at a time; that when someone you love goes away, even when you know she will return, "it leaves a hole in you." Actual photographs are subtly imbedded in the softly colored endpapers that lead to the illustrated story. Flay forms and rich colors, primitive and childlike, depict the German countryside and portray Rosa and her family, completing and extending the fluid text.
Because her mother has a "a whistling noise" in her lungs, Rosa has to go and stay with her aunt Mookie and cousin Clara in the Black Forest, She stays, she adjusts, she learns new things and misses and writes to her mother; eventually, she returns home filled with stories and love. This isn't a lot of story, but it's filled with specific detail, such as Rosa gathering fruit for jam that her aunt promises will be called Rosa's Blueberry Delight, and with an intense longing of a child for her mother. Mathers' illustrations, inhabited by her characteristic naively drawn, open-faced figures, depict a rural existence of scrubbed wooden floors, lush green hills, and amiable livestock. The mysterious yet comforting embrace of the forest as well as the plain, welcoming interiors of Aunt Mookie's home provide shelter for Rosa's waiting; the wide gaze of Rosa's mother's eyes makes a promise at the end.
Mathers paints a chapter from her own childhood in this tender recollection. With her mother recuperating from tuberculosis in a hospital in the mountains, and her father struggling to make a living in post-World War II Europe, young Petra-Rosa in the book-is sent to live for some months with her aunt and cousin on a farm in the Black Forest. While Rosa keenly feels the pain of her mother's absence, the simple pleasures of life on the farm are soothing. By Christmastime, when she leaves the farm for her long-awaited return home, an excited Rosa now weeps tears for the beloved friends she's leaving behind. The faded family photos duplicated on the endpapers inspired Mathers' striking artwork. The seemingly simple lines of her folk-art style are softened by the story's warmth, captured by Rosa's mother's loving arms encircling her daughter in a farewell embrace and by the humor of Rosa's illustrated letter to her mother. With its caringly phrased, through rather long text and meticulously worked art, this story memorably reflects the pain of separation and the joys of healing and reunion.
In 1949, Petra Mathers was sent to her Aunt Mookie in the Black Forest while her mother recovered from tuberculosis. Told from the perspective of a young girl named Rosa, this book recalls both Petra Mathers's pain of separation and the love of relatives and friends. Whimsical illustrations show Rosa as she blossoms under the care of Aunt Mookie and Mother Schmidt. On the farm there are big-eyed cows, blueberries to pick, and always, letters to write and look forward to receiving. One picture shows all of Rosa's different kinds of kisses-Eskimo, bird, butterfly, wet fish, and lion-as they fly on wings to her mother. Just before Christmas, an exuberant Rosa returns home, a little sad to leave the farm, and full to bursting of all the things she has experienced.
Bauermeister, Erica & Smith, Holly. (1997). Let's Hear It for the
Girls: 375 great books for readers 2-14. New York: Penguin Books.
Copyright © School of Communication, Information and Library Studies, Rutgers University
Principal Investigator: Kay E. Vandergrift, Professor Emerita