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Having always been best friends with her mentally challenged aunt Roo, Gracie is suddenly experiencing a shift in their relationship as Gracie gets older, finds new friends, and discovers the differences between the two worlds in which they live.
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K-Gr. 2. Gracie and her aunt Roo are best friends. On the farm where Roo lives with Grandma and Grandpa, they climb trees and play school, with Gracie always the student. Eventually, however, Gracie becomes the teacher, having advanced beyond Roo's limited capabilities. When a school friend visits, Gracie is embarrassed to introduce her to her aunt, but as she shows the girl around, she realizes all Roo has done for her. Anyone who has grown up with an older developmentally challenged relative will know the odd sensation of growing mentally beyond someone who is chronologically older, and Glenn does a good job of portraying Gracie's push-pull feelings. The problem is that children might not immediately catch on to the situation. The flap copy explains that "Roo has the heart and mind of a child," but the book shows Roo as someone who calms Gracie as a baby and teaches her how to walk. Adreasen's graphite-and-oil art has a vintage feel that mitigates the problem somewhat, and the artwork's air of innocence, especially the expressions on Roo's face, is a clue to Roo's childlike nature. With some adult explanation, this will have many uses. Ilene Cooper
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Grade 1-3--Gracie has always had a special relationship with her Aunt Roo, who is mentally challenged, and the two spend endless hours playing together. However, as Gracie grows up, goes to school, and makes new friends, she is forced to recognize that her aunt is different from other grown-ups. When a new friend comes home with her for a visit, Gracie is at first embarrassed by her aunt's outlandish behavior. As she remembers all of the fun times she has shared with the woman, however, she eventually introduces Sarah to Roo, and invites her to participate in their games. Occasional changes of verb tense interrupt the story's flow, and muted, old-fashioned illustrations and language set this story in a nostalgic past that may seem distant to today's readers. Still, children may glean something positive from this honest depiction of Gracie's acceptance of her aunt.--Julie Roach, Malden Public Library, MA
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