Now for some backstory. I was wondering aimlessly around my favorite bookstore in my favorite little town and saw this book. I actually thought it would be a cute fun little read. I didn't read the description on the back cover, it was two dollars. I started reading it in the car, I was crying almost instantly. This children's early chapter book, had such depth and maturity.
The depth of this book is so grand, author Audrey Couloumbis is able to bring difficult subjects that even adults can't talk about and bring it to a children's level. This is no ordinary book, this is a masterpiece.
The story begins with little Willa Jo and little sister. I love that the characters are so sweet, likable, and innocent. I am unsure you could hate them at all. They are sitting on top of their Aunt Patty's house. They are quiet and just watching the sun. They haven't even determined why they are there. Right now they are just existing.
They have given their Aunt Patty a heart attack almost. She is not a happy camper, although she never really is. She is trying to get them to come down. She is failing. At this point it's becoming a sight in the neighborhood which has her fuming. She brings her husband, Uncle Hob, to help retrieve them.
These little girls are grieving something no child their age should have to do, their baby sister died. They are crippled with sadness. They will need to lean on each other if they want to get over this hurdle. I am not really sure why Wilma Jo went out on the roof, and little sister joined. Perhaps it was to think and get away.
Getting near to baby is told in a super unique way. The present, the past and the future.
It starts out in the present. With Willa jo on the roof, and explaining why the girls are living with their aunt temporarily. The beginning chapters paint a small picture as to why Willa Jo might feel the need to escape onto the roof, poor girl. This part of the book just makes you want to hug the girls.
The next moment we are learning of the tragic story that made these girls be in this situation in the first place. The unexpected death of a sibling. The shattered life of their mother, grieving the loss of a new baby. Them losing a sister they thought they had. The retreated inward. Living in darkness, battling demons and depression, rarely eating. Their mother was spiraling out of control and it was affecting them. Then the moment Aunt Patty stepped in to help.
There are also flashbacks to baby sisters death. This is the hardest part of the book. Even typing out this review has me choking up a bit. This is the source of the books at times haunting emotion. The descriptions of the paintings and baby sisters with angels will be something I will never forget. This is the most moving literary pictures of grief I have ever read. As the wonderful, wise beyond her years Wilma jo put it, it stings something fierce. The way the author was able to bottle up the emotion will be something I will never forget.
I won't tell you how it ends, or if Willa Jo ever comes down from that roof. I will say the tangle of emotions that this book wraps up don't change. This book shows you that tragedy is just that tragedy. It doesn't feel good, it hits you with wave after wave of sadness. You have to put back together the crumbling pieces.
I haven't done this book justice. There isn't really a way to really review Getting near to baby. The emotions of this book will leave you stunned. The beauty of the story will warm your heart. You won't be able to read this book without tears in your eyes. This book will take you on a journey of pain, teach you about the gift of life, and will change your life.
A Southern charmer for fans of Newbery Honor book Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
Audrey Couloumbis's masterful debut novel brings to mind Karen Hesse, Katherine Paterson, and Betsy Byars's The Summer of the Swans—it is a story you will never forget.
Willa Jo and Little Sister are up on the roof at Aunt Patty’s house. Willa Jo went up to watch the sunrise, and Little Sister followed, like she always does. But by mid-morning, they are still up on that roof, and soon it’s clear it wasn’t just the sunrise that brought them there.
The trouble is, coming down would mean they’d have to explain, and they just can’t find the words.
This is a funny, sometimes heartbreaking, story about sisters, about grief, and about healing. Two girls must come to terms with the death of their baby sister, their mother’s unshakable depression, and the ridiculously controlling aunt who takes them in and means well but just doesn’t understand children. Willa Jo has to try and make things right in their new home, but she and Aunt Patty keep butting heads. Until the morning the two girls climb up to the roof of her house. Aunt Patty tries everything she can think of to get them down, but in the end, the solution is miraculously simple.
A Newbery Honor Book
An ALA Notable Book
A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year