In this British import, a girl grieving for her dead mother gives up talking when she becomes convinced that what she says doesn't matter.
Cally's father never mentions her mom, which seems to deny her existence. Then Cally begins to see her mother—a ghost or wishful imagining?—dressed in a red raincoat and sometimes accompanied by a very large dog that's assuredly not a ghost since he turns up independently at school, in the park and especially with a homeless man, Jed. Cally also meets Mrs. Cooper, a neighbor in their new apartment building who lovingly cares for her blind, nearly deaf 11-year-old son, Sam. Mrs. Cooper, Sam and a psychiatrist all reach out to Cally, each offering wise support, but it's Cally herself, perhaps with the quiet help of her mom, who finds a believable—if a bit miraculous—and highly satisfying resolution. Fifth-grader Cally's first-person voice effectively captures both her suffering and her bewilderment as friends and her father all fail to understand her pain. When she tells Sam she sometimes thinks her mother became a star after she died, he astutely asks, "Why would she go so far away?" giving Cally a comforting new way to think of her mother, much closer to her heart.
Ever so gently, this fine debut effort explores the power of human kindness as Cally and her father find effective ways to cope with their loss. (Fiction. 8-12)