Rose keeps returning, bringing the children whatever food she could sneak away from home for them to eat. One night, the soldiers silently flee the area, followed by the townspeople also running away because other [allied] soldiers are on their way to the town. Not knowing what is happening, Rose takes her food and returns to where the children are, but the place is empty and despite the dense fog, she can see that the children are gone. While she is standing there, there is a single gunshot. Rose is never seen again.
I found two real problems with Rose Blanche. The first was that right in the middle of the first person narration by Rose, the narrating voice switches to the third person. Why? Even given her eventual fate, this just didn't need to happen and it was jarring. I think using a third person narrator would have been better from the start anyway, given the freedom an omniscient narrator has over a first person.
Roberto Innocenti lived through the war in Italy and because he was afraid and given no explanations about what was happening, he decided to do Rose Blanche as an introduction to the Holocaust for children, in the hope that it would lead to a helpful, informative dialogue between children and adults. To foster that dialogue, there are no explanations of what is happening, only Rose's very concrete descriptions of what she sees. And what she see can be found in the very detailed illustrations that accompany the sparse text. In that respect, it is a perfect example of how a child, like Innocenti himself, might view the world around them sometimes lots of things happening but not enough experience to understand it all.
I really wanted to love Rose Blanche, but in the end, I could only like it. This being said, this is not a book to just disregard. There is much to be gotten from it. A tremendous amount of discussion inducing material can be found Innocenti's wonderfully detailed, claustrophobic illustrations when used in conjunction with hard facts about the Holocaust. And given that Rose Blanche is named for the German resistance movement die Weisse Rose, any discussion could naturally include ideas about the resistance and the fate of the young people in it.
This book is recommended for readers age 10+
This book was purchased for my personal library.
The Historical Association has an extensive lesson plan for teaching Rose Blanche
An excellent lesson plan by Laura Krenk and Arlene Logan can be downloaded here