The Great Blue Yonder

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Overview

"You'll be sorry when I'm dead." That's what Harry said to his sister right before he went off on his bike and got hit by a truck. And now he's just that—dead—and he's gone to the Other Side. Harry's not quite sure how he fits in there, where the sun is always setting but never quite disappears and people wander about seemingly without direction, waiting to move on to the Great Blue Yonder. Moreover, he wishes he could take back what he said to his sister, or at least tell her he's sorry. And he wouldn't mind being able to say good-bye to ...
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The Great Blue Yonder (PB)

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Overview

"You'll be sorry when I'm dead." That's what Harry said to his sister right before he went off on his bike and got hit by a truck. And now he's just that—dead—and he's gone to the Other Side. Harry's not quite sure how he fits in there, where the sun is always setting but never quite disappears and people wander about seemingly without direction, waiting to move on to the Great Blue Yonder. Moreover, he wishes he could take back what he said to his sister, or at least tell her he's sorry. And he wouldn't mind being able to say good-bye to everyone else he left behind. Then he finds a way to go back, and though what he discovers is not quite what he expected, he is given the chance to make peace with his sister, and more important, with himself.
This moving, often funny, book about grief, death, and loss will stay with the reader long after the last page is turned.

Harry, a boy who has died, tries to describe what it is like on the "other side," a place known as the Other Lands.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
"People seem to think it's an easy life when you're dead," begins the fresh voice of young Harry's beyond-the-grave memoir. "But you can take it from me, it's no such thing." Killed one day in a twilight bike accident, Harry can find no peace in the "Other Lands," because he can't stop remembering the last quarrel he had with his older sister, and the final taunt he hurled at her, "You'll be sorry when I'm dead." So, after being processed by the cross attendant fussing with the computer terminal at "the Desk," Harry sets off with his new chum, Dickensian-era Arthur, for a spot of haunting back in the Land of the Living. But he doesn't know which is worse--discovering the extent to which his old schoolmates have forgotten him, or the extent to which his family has been devastated by his loss. The school-haunting scenes go on a bit too long (once Harry has confronted the shocking truth that his coat peg has not been maintained as a memorial to him, we are not all that surprised to find him confronting the parallel desecration of his desk). But Harry's chatty narration--in turns funny and almost unbearably sad--endears him to the reader. When he and Arthur are both finally freed to move on to the Great Blue Yonder--a mystical merging with the great "ocean of life, I suppose"--it makes for a deeply moving conclusion to this unusual story.
—Claudia Mills
VOYA
When one grows up with a brother and sister, fights happen all the time. Mean things are said just to be hurtful, then after stewing alone, apologies are made and life goes on. In this novel, Harry and his sister, Eggy, have a typical sibling fight during which each says horrible things. Harry yells at his sister, "You'll be sorry when I'm dead!" and she yells back, "No I won't be, I'll be glad." Unfortunately, Harry and Eggy cannot apologize and move on because a truck hits Harry immediately after he leaves his house. Harry is sent to the Other Lands, a middle ground between life and the Great Blue Yonder. Unfinished business keeps people in the Other Lands until they are ready to move on. Harry's unfinished business is his guilt over the fight with Eggy, and until he can let go of it, he cannot move on to the Great Blue Yonder. Shearer's writing is simple, and the plot is uncomplicated; however, this book is not suitable for younger readers. The subject matter—guilt and death—requires a more mature reader to truly appreciate the story. Because the writing is so simple and the cover quite juvenile in appearance, most teens will not pick this book on their own. Libraries with a young teen designation or a middle school collection might add this title, but most libraries can save the money for something more appropriate. VOYA CODES: 3Q 2P M J (Readable without serious defects; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2001, Clarion, 192p,
— Jennifer Rice
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-"People seem to think it's an easy life when you're dead." With that attention-grabbing first line, this unusual and compelling novel tells the story of Harry, killed in a bicycle accident. Initially confused by his new existence in the Other Side, the flippant 12-year-old realizes he cannot move toward the peace of the Great Blue Yonder until he has addressed the unfinished business in his life. On the day of the accident, he and his sister had a fight in which he told her she'd be sorry when he was dead. Knowing she must be feeling tremendous pain over their parting words, he resolves to make amends. With the help of a Victorian-era lad named Arthur, he goes back home as a ghost. He sees many things he didn't expect and gains an understanding of his actions when he was alive. His death has had a devastating impact on his family, fulfilling every kid's fantasy of his family being sorry when he's gone. By now, however, Harry has grown up enough to be upset by the depth of his family's sorrow. He is able to communicate with his sister, gaining closure for her and a newfound maturity for himself. The book ends with Harry asking readers to wish him well as he heads toward the Great Blue Yonder. Sound strange? It is. It is also amusing, poignant, and deeply moving. A great main character and unusual topical matter combine to make a unique winner of a book that will leave readers laughing through their tears.-B. Allison Gray, South Country Library, Bellport, NY Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
What's it like when you're dead? Do you go to Heaven or Hell? Do you become a ghost? Eleven-year old Harry learns the answers to these elemental questions when he's killed by a truck and finds himself wandering in the Other Lands with his new friend Arthur. The Other Lands are a pleasant place, with trees, fields, and a constantly setting sun, but Harry wonders what those signs pointing to the Great Blue Yonder might be. Arthur has a story of his own. He's been wandering the Other Lands for 150 years, searching for his mother. Eventually, Arthur leads Harry back down to Earth for "some haunting," and Harry visits his old school and his family. There, Harry finds a way to resolve the issue that's been holding him back from the Great Blue Yonder: his last argument with his sister just before he died. It's a novel, intriguing idea for a children's story, and Shearer (The Summer Sisters and the Dance Disaster, 1998, etc.) grounds his narrative in Harry's experiences without much reference to religious concepts. He focuses on major issues for children, such as what their friends think of them and the underlying love that exists even between battling siblings. Much of the narrative is repetitious, but young readers will likely find the whole concept, and Harry's adventures, fascinating. (Fiction. 10-14)
From the Publisher
A great main character and unusual topical matter combine to make a unique winner of a book that will leave readers laughing through their tears.
School Library Journal, Starred
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780439561273
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/6/2004
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 192
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 840L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.50 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Alex Shearer has written more than a dozen books for both adults and children, as well as many successful television series, films, and stage and radio plays in the United Kingdom. His chapter books include Professor Sniff and the Lost Spring Breezes and The Summer Sisters and the Dance Disaster (both Orchard). He lives in Somerset, England.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2006

    The Great Blue Yonder

    The Great Blue Yonder was a fantastic book! It really taught a good life lesson. I learned a lot from this book and many people will. It is an appropriate book for all ages!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2009

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