By People Staff
July 12, 1999 12:00 PM

>Maria Shriver

When Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy died in 1995, she left her smallest descendants with some painful questions. “They knew someone had passed,” recalls Kennedy granddaughter Maria Shriver of her own young daughters, Katherine and Christina. “And they asked, ‘Where did she go?’ ”

Unsure of how to discuss the topic, Shriver, 43, listened to her girls’ own ideas and was moved by their vision of a warm, happy afterlife. Now the NBC News anchor has turned those thoughts into the bestselling What’s Heaven?—a children’s story about a girl named Kate whose great-grandmother dies.

“It’s not a book you’ll read every night,” admits Shriver, who now has four children (Katherine, 9; Christina, 7; Patrick, 5; and Christopher, 18 months) with actor husband Arnold Schwarzenegger. But she hopes the book will be a “starting point” for families who need to talk about a loved one’s death—as hers did again when Schwarzenegger’s mother died last summer. “The girls said, ‘Daddy, your mom is with your dad,’ ” she recalls. “He found it comforting when they told him it was okay.”