The loss of a beloved grandparent can be a devastating event in a young child’s life. Maria Pagan-Acevedo recounts her mother’s life and death through the eyes of her own young son, in the emotive picture book Mita: A Memoir of Our Grandmother.
Mita is first depicted holding her grandchildren as infants and playing with them as young children, but the story quickly turns. Mita becomes sick, spending more and more time in hospitals and rehabilitation centers until finally, she dies. Mita’s grandson struggles to understand the nature and permanence of death, but his mother reassures him, explaining that Mita will always be with him, everywhere and in everything he does.
The choice to narrate the story from the perspective of Mita’s grandson is a good one, and children experiencing the death of someone in their own family will easily relate to the sense of confusion and loss he feels. But Acevedo also wisely uses an adult voice, that of the boy’s mother, to offer a sense of security and hope, as when she tells her son: “There are things that happen in our life which cannot be explained. I am so sorry that you are hurting. In time you will see that it will get a little bit easier, but for right now, you have me to carry you through this.”
Mita is not always gracefully written, and there are minor mechanical errors throughout, such as misplaced apostrophes, and the word “use” instead of “used” (in the phrase “Things we use to do together”). But Mita offers a thoughtful way to broach the universality of death with children. The book is a simple, personal memorial of a woman who had an impact on a child’s life, and it allows children to see parallels in their own lives, or in the lives of others they know personally.