THAT SUMMER by Tony Johnston


by & illustrated by
Age Range: 5 - 9
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“What do you do when you know you are leaving the world?” The narrator, unnamed, asks the question because his brother Joey is dying. No going fishing or playing baseball this summer. As Joey worsens, the family becomes “dream walkers,” until Joey, watching Gram with her stitching, asks, “How do you make a quilt?” And Joey makes a quilt of his memories and things he loves. When Joey’s hair falls out in clumps, his brother shaves his own head to be bald too and he calls them “two bald baby balloons.” When Joey dies, his quilt is nearly done, just one last patch left; his brother stitches the final piece—two bald baby balloons. The language is poetically terse, the chosen words packed with meaning and allusion; e.g. “a gleam of guilt glided through my heart like a gleam of snake down a hole. Joey was sick but I was well.” The questions the brother asks are those of a child. To the question: “Who will care for me when I die?” Gram answers, “God will.” Moser’s dark gray illustrations of graphite on gray paper effectively convey the grief and sorrow and four, color illustrations in his familiar style punctuate the haunting images. Even though neither title nor cover suggests the serious topic, this will be sought for its inspiration and consolation. A loving, poignant story that will join the ranks of a handful of others, which, like Joey’s quilt with its last missing piece, help fill the gap for dealing realistically with its difficult subject. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: May 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-15-201585-X
Page count: 32pp
Publisher: Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2002


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