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Getting Near to Baby


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About the Author

Audrey Couloumbis was born in Illinois. Her book Getting Near to Baby was awarded a Newbery Honor in 2000.


Gr 6-8-When their baby sibling dies, two sisters are sent to stay with their domineering Aunt Patty. A poignant and uplifting novel told from a child's wise and down-to-earth perspective. (Oct.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

In her first novel for children, Couloumbis deftly constructs an intricate montage of thoughts and memories from the perspective of 12-year-old Willa Jo Dean who, with Little Sister, mourns the death of their baby sister. As the story opens, Willa Jo and Little Sister are sitting on the roof, ignoring their Aunt Patty's orders to come down. Over the course of a single day, Willa Jo, from her high perch, mulls over the events of the past few weeks: her mother's depression, Little Sister's refusal to talk and Aunt Patty's efforts to make things right by taking the girls into her home. But Aunt Patty and her nieces don't see things the same way. Willa Jo and Little Sister would rather play with the children across the street (dirty "mole rats," in Aunt Patty's opinion) than attend Bible School or associate with the socially acceptable daughters of Aunt Patty's friends. The tension rises until Uncle Hob, in his soft-spoken way, forms a bridge of understanding that unites them all. Willa Jo's narrative, with its subtle cadences of a Southern drawl, achieves a child's sense of the timelessness of long summer days stretching before her. Coloumbis infuses the heroine's voice with an elegiac quality, even as the child's humor and determination to keep up Little Sister's spirits shine through. The tale of this one day on the roof chronicles the changes in the other three characters as much as the changes in Willa Jo, and the combined strength of this unforgettable cast of characters leaves a lasting and uplifting impression. Ages 10-up. (Sept.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

Gr 6-8-A touching examination of grief and healing, of the affects of a tragedy on a family, and of loss and acceptance. Willa Jo Dean, one week shy of her 13th birthday, crawls onto the roof of Aunt Patty's house to watch the sunrise. Little Sister follows her, as always. Much to Aunt Patty's chagrin, the sisters stay on the roof, ignoring her pleas and threats to come down. The novel encompasses one day's sunrise to sunset. In a series of flashbacks, Willa Jo tells of the death of Baby from drinking tainted water at a carnival, of their mother's blaming herself and incapacitating grief, and of Little Sister's refusal to talk. The girls have been taken to their aunt's house, where they have spent an uncomfortable three weeks, missing their mother, their baby sister, and being at odds with the well-intentioned yet bossy and humorless Aunt Patty. By day's end, the girls are reunited with their mother, reconciled with their aunt, and realize that death is not to be feared, that life is short, and that love brings healing. Couloumbis's writing is strong; she captures wonderfully the Southern voices of her characters and conveys with great depth powerful emotions. Indeed, this is a book about feelings and relationships, and the reverent tone and child-focused attempts to understand the unknowable ring true in a deeply satisfying manner. While the lack of action as well as the nonchronological flashbacks may prove a challenge for some youngsters, this is a compelling novel that will speak to special readers.-Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

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