That Summer


That summer the brothers ran into the sun, freed from school. Time for fishing poles, lightning bugs, country roads, baseball gloves.
But then Joey was dying.
What do you do when someone you love is leaving the world? You reach for fragments of memory, like moments caught on film. You savor the vivid colors and small joys of each new day. That's what Joey's family does when they know he is leaving them.
Tony ...

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That summer the brothers ran into the sun, freed from school. Time for fishing poles, lightning bugs, country roads, baseball gloves.
But then Joey was dying.
What do you do when someone you love is leaving the world? You reach for fragments of memory, like moments caught on film. You savor the vivid colors and small joys of each new day. That's what Joey's family does when they know he is leaving them.
Tony Johnston's poignant words and Barry Moser's intimate pictures, a blend of past and present, invite us to share the experience of that summer—a season of family, of life, and of love.

"This life-affirming story can provide inspiration and consolation for the brothers and sisters of seriously ill children—and for all family members when a child is losing the fight against a terrible disease. It's sure to stimulate helpful discussions."

-Gregory Reaman, M.D., Chair of the National Children's Oncology Group

A family, including a child who is dying, sews together a quilt of its memories and love.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This spare tale of two brothers, one terminally ill, sounds familiar but is uncommonly moving. The boys revel in the freedom that summer brings until the younger falls ill on the Fourth of July and quickly grows worse. "Joey was leaving," says the older brother, who narrates. "It was clear as the rain that stung his window that summer." As the boys struggle to come to terms with their grief, their grandmother teaches Joey how to quilt. He pieces together scenes of all the things he has cherished, from his dog, Spoon, to lightning bugs, baseball and country roads. In the end, it's up to his older brother to fit in the last piece as Joey's bereaved family and friends come together to finish the quilt and say good-bye. Johnston's (Amber on the Mountain) words are freighted with poetry and emotion: the grandmother's needle "flicked in and out, a fish, slim and silver"; silence seems "sweet and wide as sleep." Moser (When Willard Met Babe Ruth) supplements masterly watercolors, which depict the present tense, with album-style black-and-white "snapshots" of the two boys at various stages in childhood (these are sketched on gray paper and highlighted with white chalk). Every element, visual and verbal, is certain to tug at the heart. However, this may be best suited for kids with some exposure to loss. Ages 6-9. (May) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
Author Tony Johnston and well-known illustrator Barry Moser collaborate to produce a winner in their book about the death of a sibling. The tale begins when two brothers sample carefree summer days filled with hoots, hollers, and boyish fun. However, the reader is quickly made aware of the fact that the younger brother, Joey, is very ill. As the story progresses, from his older sibling's view, it becomes apparent that Joey will not recover. In an effort to entertain and ease Joey's burden, his grandmother teaches him to quilt. The story and quilting all weave together for Joey's last summer as the older brother comes to grips with the reality of the situation. Johnston's words paint a picture of poetry. Moser compliments the text with a unique flip-flopping of black and chalk pictures portraying past photos of Joey and his brother and watercolor pictures of what is actually happening. Joey's death comes softly and is difficult for the family to talk about, but his life is sung in the completion of the summer quilt. This book is excellent for children dealing with the eminent loss of a sibling or for children working through their feelings when losing a childhood friend. 2002, Harcourt,
— Nancy Garhan Attebury
School Library Journal
K-Gr 6-With "hoots and shouts," two brothers celebrate the delicious freedom that comes with the end of school and the beginning of summer. "-[O]ver the porch, over the lawn, down the hollows. Joey and I ran like there was no tomorrow." Their simple joy is short-lived when the Fourth of July finds Joey suddenly and terminally ill. His brother narrates this personal and powerful story of loss, with eloquent simplicity. "I learned a lot that summer. How to grin with your heart in shreds. How to make a bed with your brother in it, your brother still as a whisper." When Joey loses his hair, his brother shaves his own head in support. When Joey can't sleep, Gram teaches him to quilt, and together they sew the story of his young life. Text and illustrations work in seamless harmony. Moser's full-page, graphite portraits framed in white are reminiscent of still photographs meant to be treasured. Full-color illustrations are used sparingly, capturing pivotal moments of heartbreaking sorrow and joy-the day Joey's "Boisterous, roisterous friends" appear to sing their hope and the day his brother whispers "Good-bye." Moser's dedication reads: "For all the courageous people who care for terminally ill children, with my deepest respect and admiration." A noteworthy tribute, not to be missed.-Alicia Eames, New York City Public Schools Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
"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)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780152015855
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 5/1/2002
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 6 - 9 Years
  • Product dimensions: 7.60 (w) x 11.74 (h) x 0.38 (d)

Meet the Author

TONY JOHNSTON 's award-winning books for children include It's About Dogs, Very Scary, and Day of the Dead. She lives in San Marino, California.

BARRY MOSER is the illustrator of many acclaimed books for children and adults, including Telling Time with Big Mama Cat and Sit, Truman!, both co-illustrated with his daughter Cara Moser. He lives in western Massachusetts.

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