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Comment: Ex-library book in good condition with typical stamps and markings. Pages are clean and the binding is tight. *NOTE* Stock photo may not represent the actual book for sale.
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Getting near to baby (Newbery Honor Book) Hardcover – September 13, 1999

4.1 out of 5 stars 46 customer reviews

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Realistic fiction for tweens
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Grade 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 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Series: Newbery Honor Book
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Juvenile; First Edition edition (September 13, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 039923389X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399233890
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,512,830 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
My wife stages a Nutcracker production involving over 100 children. During long hours of rehearsals there is much down time. The young dancers get bored and irritable. One day she found Getting Near to Baby. (recommended by a grammar school teacher) In the Green Room one of the mothers began reading the novel to the waiting dancers and they were enthralled. It seemed to be a situation they could relate to. The language was "theirs" and the story struck a chord. It was difficult to get them to go onstage for rehearsal until they found what happened to the little girls up on the roof.
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By A Customer on August 5, 2000
Format: Hardcover
When Willa Jo climbs on the roof of Aunt Patty's house to watch the sunrise, she discovers that although grief affects everyone differently, no one escapes the sadness that follows a death in the family. With cleverly-inserted flashbacks, Audrey Couloumbis tenderly describes how an extended family's relationships change as two sisters grieve the death of their baby sister. Sometimes stubborn and prickly, thirteen-year-old Willa Jo resolutely resists Aunt Patty's bossiness, her exacting household rules, and her well-intentioned but awkward attempts to care for Willa Jo and Little Sister. Only on her rooftop retreat, does Willa Jo begin to understand the bond that entwines her grief, sunrise memories, and the sisters' relationship with Aunt Patty and Uncle Hob. Getting Near to Baby explores family relationships with humor and sensitivity as it describes one family's struggle to find peace after a baby's death. More than a sensitive depiction of bereavement, this story explores the special closeness two sisters may share. I liked Willa Jo and found her narration believable, touching, and sometimes funny.
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Format: Hardcover
Getting Near to Baby was one of the more peculiar novels for young people I have read in recent months. Its power lies in the author's tight yet soaring descriptive moments. There were, for example, wonderful and soaring descriptions of nature as seen from the roof where Willa Jo and Little Sister are esconsed that are nothing short of breathtaking. But from an emotional point of view, this is a very small novel that finally has the emotional arc of a bad SEVENTH HEAVEN episode. The resolution is pat, didactic (especially in the voice of Hob, the girls' uncle) and utterly predictable. Caution to authors: when you start out a novel that has a young girl not talking, understand that your readers have already figured out that by the end of the book, the girl will talk. How you get the girl there, and how you twist her actual moment of speech so that the reader is in some way astonished, is the mark of whether you have done your job as a storyteller. This is a stop-and-start novel that is not very long in the first place. I must have put it down ten times along the way. If this is a roller-coaster of a review, the book itself is a slow speed rowboat glide along a still southern pond.
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Format: Hardcover
The author has done an excellent job of writing about a painful subject without making it seem trite or overly emotional. While a few things may be predictable (a bad Seventh Heaven episode it's certainly not!), they weren't intended to fool you to begin with - I felt the emotions and responses to events were very accurately portrayed. I found myself crying during certain passages and laughing out loud during others. This is one of those books that makes you glad you can read. If you're buying this for a young person, take a few hours to read it yourself - it will be well worth the time.
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Format: Paperback
It took me a while to get into this book, but each time I put it down, there was an empty space wanting to be filled with answers. The more I got to know Willa Jo and Little Sister, as well as Aunt Patty, Uncle Hob and Mom, the more my questions yearned for answers.
This story, about a summer filled with grief and the different ways of trying to cope with it, is hauntingly spiritual. Despite the well-meaning efforts of Aunty Patty and her churchgoing neighbors, the spiritual depths are mined by a grieving mother who paints pictures of angels, and by two lonely girls sitting on the roof watching the sun rise.
I'm not sure how many middle-grade readers will be drawn into this sparse story, but it would be worth the effort, especially for those dealing with grief or the departure of a parent.
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A Kid's Review on October 11, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Getting Near to Baby definitely deserves 4 stars! The writing style Audrey Coulumbis shows is interesting. She is a very poetic writer and I will definitely read her other books. If you love poetry you will like this book.While a little bumpy and dreamy at the beginning, overall it is a great book. The chapters are very short but include much detail. This book satisfys readers young and old. The characters are very intriguing, and make any reader want to read more. Willa Jo and her family seem like normal people, but I don't know anybody who sits on a roof to watch the sunset. The plot of the book is twisted and sad, unlike most books I have read. It was sad how the aunt treats the children. Doesn't it seem mean not to let children play with children across the street because they live in little houses? Even though this book is sad, I will recommend it to everyone in search of a great book! By: Caitlin
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