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Getting Near to Baby
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Getting Near to Baby

3.76 of 5 stars 3.76  ·  rating details  ·  2,217 ratings  ·  113 reviews
A Southern charmer for fans of Newbery Honor book Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage

Audrey Couloumbis's masterful debut novel brings to mind Karen Hesse, Katherine Paterson, and Betsy Byars's The Summer of the Swans—it is a story you will never forget.
Willa Jo and Little Sister are up on the roof at Aunt Patty’s house. Willa Jo went up to watch the sunrise, and Little...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published August 27th 2001 by Puffin (first published September 13th 1999)
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Speak by Laurie Halse AndersonCut by Patricia McCormickThe House of the Spirits by Isabel AllendeGetting Near to Baby by Audrey CouloumbisThe Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf
Selective Mutism
3rd out of 23 books — 21 voters
Charlotte's Web by E.B. WhiteElla Enchanted by Gail Carson LevineBecause of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamilloHatchet by Gary PaulsenRamona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary
Newbery Medal Honor Books
116th out of 306 books — 251 voters

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Community Reviews

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Linda Lipko
Come watch the sunrise on Aunt Patty and Uncle Hob's roof with thirteen year old Willa Jo and her seven-year old grief stricken, mute "Little Sister."

It is hot and steep and dangerous, but the view allows a vista different from what is happening inside the grieving souls of two lonely, heart-broken little girls who recently lost their baby sister.

Once you are up there, why leave? In fact, why not stay throughout the day as neighbors gawk and Aunt Patty vigorously plys her guilt in an attempt to...more
I must say I was a little apprehensive about starting this book given the subject matter. Audrey Couloumbis writes of life after the heart-breaking loss of a child from the point of view of an older sister, but the amazing thing is her ability to describe the experience with an honest voice without drowning the reader in sadness. Not an easy task. I'm glad she added an 'About the Author' section at the back which explains that she was around Willa Jo's age when her Aunt's child died, and another...more
I actually read this several years ago, before I married or had children and thought it was deeply moving. Now that I have experienced the loss of a child, I would like to go back and re-read, particularly for the perspective of what it is like for an older sibling to grieve.
Reminiscent of Dicey's Song, in terms of young people dealing with tragedy and being uprooted and somewhat betrayed by their parents, as well as in the narrative voice.
Without a doubt, Getting near to baby is one of the most emotionally affecting books that I've read in quite a while. Everything about its sometimes sad, sometimes silly, continually profound story commends it for the Newbery Honor that it received. As a whole, it is near-flawless.

The writing of author Audrey Couloumbis is sweetened with a depth of poignancy that suggests from the start that this is no ordinary book. The narrative begins with young Willa Jo and Little Sister out on the roof of...more
It was interesting, mostly. There were some parts where it dragged, the whole thing probably could have been a little bit shorter, but on the whole it was very good.

Willa Jo and Little Sister have climbed up onto the roof of their aunt's house to watch the sunrise, and have not come down since. They've been living with their aunt since their father left and their baby sister died, leaving their mom too grief-stricken to care for them. In spite of the fact that living with their mom does offer th...more
Shelby Olszewski
Willa Jo and her little sister are sent to stay with their aunt after the sudden death of their baby sister. The story starts with the two sisters being at their aunts, and climbing out onto the roof one morning. The girls refuse to listen to their aunt to come down, and stay on the roof a very long time. While on the roof Willa Jo will take the reader back to earlier in the week telling different events that happened. After being on the roof all morning the girls Uncle came out on the roof with...more
Getting Near to Baby, by Audrey Couloumbis. (Puffin Books, 1999). 211 p. Realistic Fiction.

Summary: After the death of her baby sister, Willa Jo is taken to live with her Aunt Patty, as her mother is steeped in a deep depression. Willa Jo relationship with Patty is strained, and she finds herself up on the roof one morning, watching the sunrise, and sorting through the turmoil of the past few months.

Critique: a) Couloumbis’ portrayal of Willa Jo as a struggling preteen is very authentic. The de...more
After the death of their baby sister, Willa Jo and Little Sister's family falls apart. The death of their baby sister had affect their family members in different ways, but what is in common is they are all suffering and all they want is their life to be normal once again. Their mother sink into the guiltness of herself not taking good care of the baby, so they were forced to live with their strict Aunt Patty and her husband. Little Sister refuses to talk ever since baby sister died and Willa Jo...more
I first read this book growing up probably at least 10 years ago. I decided to reread it. I enjoyed it just as much now as I did when I was a child. Obviously the book isn't written for adults, but it's not dumbed down so much that adults wouldn't want to read it. The language is simple, but the themes are not. Loss, grief, change of all types are very adult topics. I think the author does a great job of explaining these to people of all ages. It's a beautifully written book.
Getting Near to Baby / by Audrey Couloumbis (1999) SUMMARY: Although, 13-year-old Willa Jo and her Aunt Patty seem to be constantly at odds, staying with her and Uncle Hob helps the Willa Jo and her younger sister come to terms with the death of their family's baby. COMMENT: This is a very sad story with some happy occasions thrown in. An extended family is dealing with the death of Baby in their own ways. But it takes Willa Jo climbing out on the roof closely followed by Little Sister to cause...more
I know this is a kids' book, and kudos to Couloumbis for both tackling a hard subject and making the characters awfully well-defined people for the number of pages she spent developing them. However, some of the niggly things annoyed me. For example, why does "Little Sister" suddenly get a name 3/4 of the way through the book? The best book on child death for the elementary school reader I've read all year. We'll leave it at that.
I didn't know what to expect from this book. I knew it would be sad, from what I read on the back cover, and I wasn't sure I'd be able to get through another tragic Newberry book. However, I started it last night and found I couldn't put it down. It was only when I realized I couldn't keep my eyes open that I finally set down the book and went to sleep. But I picked it up again first thing this morning and finished it up. And I'm not ashamed to say I cried my eyes out when I read what happened t...more
This is about two sibling grieving for the loss of their loved ones. Though it is a heart-throbbing read it makes you understand life after death and how family deals with those they love passing and moving on.
Very touching story, worthy of the awards it won. Children don't have the words and maturity to express and understand the grief they feel after tragic events. They express those feelings and lack of understanding in their behavior, as did Willa Jo, the main character in this book. Her little sister also manifested her own grief by not uttering a word since the family tragedy. It is a very touching book, expertly written with insight and a little bit of humor. A reminder that we (as adults) MUST...more
Great construction of book with current setting and flashbacks. Most of the present takes place on the roof of Aunt Patty and Uncle Hob’s house. Love the characters -- even Aunt Patty

Willa Jo is hanging out on the roof pondering life. Little sister hasn’t talked since Baby Sister died and Mom is depressed. Willa Jo would rather be taking care of Mom, but Willa and Sister are stuck staying with Aunt Patty and Uncle Hob. Aunt Patty has more rules than shingles on the roof including thou shalt not...more
Easy read...of course, it is juve. fiction, so that is why! Prose flows so nice that the chapters just fly by. It's about a pre-teen girl and her younger sister (who is temporarily mute) and their move to live with an aunt and uncle after their younger sister's death. Their mother is having a very difficult time coping with her youngest child's death, so aunt and uncle take in the two older girls for a time. Of course, both girls just want to be with their mother and see her happy again. But alo...more
This book made me crazy. I must have checked on my own baby five times last night and I dreamt of his sweet head all night. I'm not sure what I think of a story for children that is made of so much pain. Maybe it's less painful for children to read something like this? Maybe this is a horror book for mothers. Anyway, it was as good of a book as could be, beautifully written the way the story unfolds and ends. I turned the last page quickly with my breath quick, only to find the story was gone. I...more
Emily Cook
A beautiful story of family, grief, and hope, told from big sister's perspective.
Mallee Stanley
Definitely deserves this award as it is a moving young adult story
The emotions and struggles of the characters felt so real. I could see the town and its inhabitants so clearly while I was reading the story. My heart yearned for them to heal. I thought it was a poignant story and I cried while reading it. I loved the setting and the voices of the characters. Each person felt unique and I couldn't help but feel for Aunt Patty as she tried to take care of these girls. I would definitely recommend this book.

*Taken from my book reviews blog:
Willa Jo and Little Sister have been taken in by their Aunt Patty after a family tragedy. One day they both climb out on the roof of the house and refuse to come in, worrying Aunt Patty and the neighborhood. This story is mainly told through Willa Jo's flashbacks about what happened before the tragedy and after they initially came to Aunt Patty's. This is a fairly easy read after you realize that the book is flashbacks. I really enjoyed the bond that Willa Jo and Little Sister have, they are the...more
Mar 04, 2009 Joanna rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Joanna by: Lisa
One of the most striking things about this book was the character depth--so many young adult novels have interesting plots but flat, stereotypical characters. Willa Jo and the people in her life are believable enough that one can't help empathizing with them and falling in love with each of them and their dreams, fears, insecurities, and loves well before the end of the book. Besides also being an outstanding story, the author handles difficult subjects sensitively, making the ideas of loss and...more
After Willa Jo and JoAnn’s baby sister dies, their mother is too overcome with grief to care for her daughters. The girls are forced to move in with their aunt Patty. Willa Jo butts heads with Aunt Patty while she deals with her grief and sadness from being away from her Mom.

This would be an excellent story for any teen/child dealing with death or grief. I liked the way death was handled in the story. While the story was mainly about Willa Jo, we could still see that she had adults around her t...more
Lisa Rathbun
This story is both simple and deep, funny and sad. The characters are interesting and flawed; not even the "villain" of the story is truly a villain. Instead we see a study in grief and love. The relationships between sisters is portrayed as supportive and sheltering. A younger reader might have trouble following the events of the story. I could see writing out a story board or time-line to help students understand how the narrator skips around, revealing more and more of the story. And, yes, I...more
I loved this book! It is a Newberry Honor Book and it lives up to the honor. Although it is targeted for younger readers, adults should read it along with their children.
It is about family relationships, tragedies and how families work through problems. Willa Jo and Little Sister are two of the best characters I have read about in a long time. I don't want to give the plot away, but I love Uncle Hob and how he handles those two girls. Next time I see a sunrise and sunset I will think of them!
A very tender story of two sisters trying to cope with the loss of Baby, their young sister. Aunt Patty tries to help by taking the two girls to her home and letting their mother deal with her grief alone. All are just more lonely. But as the girls spend the day on the roof of Aunt Patty and Uncle Hob's house, and Willa Jo tells us her story, true healing takes place and all is right in the end. A very good story. Well deserves the Newbery Honor status.
Zannatul Orin
The reason the author wrote this book, is because she wants to inform us as a reader that life is not always like how you want it to be. In life, you have to sacrifice the situations you go through, in order to move on. The author taught me that you have to get use to the situations you are going though in your life. The author thinks that it's important to inform us, as a reader to learn to live our life, even if situations become difficult.
I love this book. I cried when I read it. I keep offering it in a literature circle for my kids, but they never pick it up. I guess it's a good thing they are not the editors, it would have never been published.

The main character struggles with the death of "baby" and her mother's inability to take care of them at the time. So she is shipped off to her aunt's along with her little sister. This is a journey through healing after a death.
Gretchen Schaefer
My company is going in to tech of the stage production of this book this week! I hope to finish it before tech officially begins!

10/20: As tech's go I didn't quite finish before tech but i just finished this evening and it's a lovely novel. I'm fascinated by the adaptions that Y made for the stage. I'm curious if there is anyone on goodreads who has read the play or seen the play who might want to chat about it further!
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“Knowing that time is short is important. Knowing to make the best use of it you can, that's important. Letting those around you know you love them. Because you never know when you'll have to say good-bye.” 17 likes
“Grief stays with a person for a long time.” 3 likes
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