Sammy in the Sky

( 3 )

Overview

A deeply affecting tale of love, loss, and remembrance— told in clear-eyed prose by a top journalist and illustrated by a renowned American painter.

Sammy, the best hound dog in the whole wide world, loves his girl and she loves him. When illness cuts Sammy's life short, the girl's family keeps his spirit alive by celebrating his love of chasing wind-blown bubbles, keeping loyal guard at night, and offering his velvety fur for endless pats and tummy scratches. Painter Jamie ...

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Overview

A deeply affecting tale of love, loss, and remembrance— told in clear-eyed prose by a top journalist and illustrated by a renowned American painter.

Sammy, the best hound dog in the whole wide world, loves his girl and she loves him. When illness cuts Sammy's life short, the girl's family keeps his spirit alive by celebrating his love of chasing wind-blown bubbles, keeping loyal guard at night, and offering his velvety fur for endless pats and tummy scratches. Painter Jamie Wyeth's illustrations— infused with his realist style and lifelong fondness for dogs— radiate the joy and sadness of every tongue-licking, tail-wagging moment in this heartening and lovingly rendered story written by Pulitzer Prize— winning journalist Barbara Walsh.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The title of Walsh's debut and the use of the past tense make it clear that Sammy, "the best hound dog in the whole world," is not going to make it: "Daddy found a bump on Sammy's neck; it was as big as a baseball." Wyeth's (Cabbages and Kings) watercolors capture Sammy's floppy ears, patient expression, and sloppy kisses for his overall-wearing mistress; readers will love him, too, and they'll find his impending death just as difficult as his owners do. The girl's mother tells her what to expect: "When he leaves, his body will be like an empty shell, but his spirit will be everywhere.... All the good things about Sammy, like his love for you, will be yours to keep forever." The family travels through their grief together: "You're still the best hound dog in the whole wide world," the girl shouts to a Sammy-shaped cloud as they gather months later on the beach to celebrate his life. As a model of good mourning, it's a fruitful resource; as an account of loss, it goes to the pit of the stomach. Ages 4–7. (Aug.)
From the Publisher
This timeless story, told in straightforward prose, is brought to life in textured, soft-edged watercolor paintings in a predominant palette of blue, green, and gold. The feelings of the protagonist and the playful personality of the dog are palpably rendered in their facial expressions and body language. A generous trim size, universal subject appeal, and striking artwork.
—School Library Journal (starred review)

Warm, emotional tale, replete with comfort and acceptance, this secular selection is a strong choice for a child dealing with death for the first time.
—Kirkus Reviews

School Library Journal
K-Gr 3—This tale of a young girl and her beloved dog whose life comes to its inevitable natural end will have broad appeal. Peering out from the opening page with soulful, winning eyes, Sammy is the "best hound dog in the whole world." He loves to play and keeps his young owner safe at night. But Sammy develops a sickness that medicine won't cure, and as he displays increasing physical infirmities, the girl's parents gently prepare her for his death. The girl comes to terms with her grief several months later when her family holds a "special celebration" on a nearby ocean beach. Seeing Sammy's shape in a passing cloud, the child begins to understand how he'll always be with her in spirit. This timeless story, told in straightforward prose, is brought to life in textured, soft-edged watercolor paintings in a predominant palette of blue, green, and gold. The feelings of the protagonist and the playful personality of the dog are palpably rendered in their facial expressions and body language. A generous trim size, universal subject appeal, and striking artwork add up to a picture book that can be enjoyed one-on-one or read independently.—Kathleen Finn, St. Francis Xavier School, Winooski, VT
Kirkus Reviews

A little girl grieves her beloved dog.

Sammy was a hound dog—possibly the best in the world. He loved his girl, and she loved him. Painter Wyeth's realistic, evocative watercolors show Sammy and the girl sharing good times together, playing dress-up, sleeping curled up and blowing and chasing bubbles. When Sammy is diagnosed with an untreatable illness, the girl has to accept that they don't have much time left. Her parents are gentle and kind and offer explanations to help the girl with her impending loss, but when Sammy dies, she is bereft. Sensitive, graceful text depicts her pain and traces her journey through dreams and thoughts as she finds ways of coping that help her to remember Sammy and celebrate his life. Sammy is still around the family in memory, and the girl catches a glimpse of a cloud that looks like him as the family blows bubbles on the beach and shares stories about their friend. Without anthropomorphizing, Wyeth gives coonhound Sammy all the personality a dog could want; the little girl is a latter-day Sal, complete with overalls.

A warm, emotional tale, replete with comfort and acceptance, this secular selection is a strong choice for a child dealing with death for the first time.(Picture book. 4-7)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780763649272
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Publication date: 8/9/2011
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 542,771
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: AD740L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 10.00 (w) x 11.50 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Barbara Walsh is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has worked for newspapers and magazines in Florida, Massachusetts, Maine, and Ireland. Sammy in the Sky was inspired by her family's first dog, Sam, a loyal and loving hound who died in 2003. She is also the author of August Gale: A Father and Daughter's Journey into the Storm, an adult biography and memoir book. Barbara Walsh lives in Maine with her family and their coonhound, Jack, a rescue dog from Tennessee.

Jamie Wyeth is an internationally known painter, illustrator, and dog lover. When he was a boy he endlessly sketched his family dog and has continued to portray animals in his work throughout his life. He has illustrated two previous picture books, THE STRAY and CABBAGES AND KINGS. Jamie Wyeth, son of painter Andrew Wyeth and grandson of illustrator N. C. Wyeth, splits his time between Maine and Pennsylvania.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 12, 2011

    Important book for anyone who has loved & lost a pet.

    This is a story about losing someone that you dearly love. In this case it is a dog named Sammy. He is the best friend of the unnamed little girl who is the central character in the story. And, because she is unnamed, it is easier for the reader to imagine themselves as her in the story. She is every child that has ever loved a dog.

    Your are instantly captured by Sammy's eyes in the illustration on the first page as the girl tells us why Sammy is "the best hound dog in the whole world". Then, as we transition into his illness, we discover just how important Sammy is as a member of their family. Everyone is affected by his illness and his loss. But, out of the grief comes an understanding that his most important contribution was his love and the memories that they shared. Those remain forever!

    Every reader will likely shed a tear for Sammy. It is a book that can both teach and sustain family stories of other beloved pets. It is a story that feels authentic and will ring true to anyone who has counted their pet as a "family member".

    The illustrations by Jamie Wyeth raise the story telling in this book. These illustrations are of the level found in an "art book" but are such a great match with the story they support it rather than compete with it. Overall, just a truly wonderful story for anyone who has loved a pet at some time during their life.

    This story is as important as "Bridge to Terabithia" in dealing with the subject of death but covers a much wider age range. It can be read and understood by an early reader on their own or read by an adult to help them understand (or prepare for) the loss of a beloved pet. It is a book that any parent or grandparent should have in their arsenal of great books to help in the raising of a child. I fully expect that it will be nominated for a Newbery and/or Caldecott award.

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  • Posted October 5, 2011

    Highly recommended - A "must" for all ages!

    Sammy in the Sky is a beautiful story for all ages about the gifts we are given by the dogs that we love. Sammy makes us laugh and smile as he chases bubbles and wears "dress up" clothes. He makes us sigh and weep as he courageously lives through his final days. In the end, along with his family, we learn to accept that he is physically gone, but will continue to fill our hearts with joy as we remember our time with him.

    As a teacher of almost thirty years, I highly recommend this book. Barbara Walsh's amazing tale deals with death in a very sensitive and loving way, which is so important when helping children learn to deal with grief. Along with her characters we get to experience love, courage, grief and understanding. Each of Jamie Wyeth's illustrations, breathtaking in their beauty, reaches into our hearts, capturing these emotions as only someone who truly loves dogs could do.

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  • Posted August 19, 2011

    A MUST HAVE FOR ALL AGES WHO HAVE EXPERIENCED LOSS

    As a grief counselor, I work with people of all ages who have loved and lost. Whether it be a person or a pet, loss through death can bring most of us to our knees. This book is not just for children. This book speaks to anyone who has known the feeling in the pit of their stomach when someone they love, is suddenly gone. The union of Barbara Walsh and Jamie Wyeth expressing what we will all feel at one time or another, is healing beyond words. I will use this book with young and old alike, and feel confident that it will be a companion for all who grieve for many years to come.

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