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Getting Near to Baby

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  3,545 ratings  ·  190 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 Si
Paperback, 224 pages
Published April 24th 2001 by Puffin Books (first published September 13th 1999)
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Average rating 3.80  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,545 ratings  ·  190 reviews

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Feb 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
السن المستهدف: من ١٢-١٥ سنة
النوع الأدبي: أدب واقعي

A flashback was running throughout my mind. I remembered my feeling with estrangement every time i had to be separated from my mother when i was a child. Like Willa Jo, my home wasn't the perfect example for a happy childhood sanctuary. But without being next to my mom, no fairyland i would then trade it with my (not-very-happy) home.

I felt very related to aunt Patty. The strict woman who thought that she could easily get her sister's life back t
Oct 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: middle-grade, grief
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.
Linda Lipko
Feb 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Stacy Lynn
Sep 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"Getting Near to Baby" is a tragic story about two unique sisters who have lost everything due to a dead family member. The younger lost her ability to speak, and the older lost her true identity; causing her to hide behind this image of "prim and proper", as her aunt describes their hideous looking skirts and "fancy" gowns they're forced to wear. I loved the strong word choice and beautiful descriptions, because it truly painted a portrait in my mind making me imagine that I was there with the ...more
The Book Girl
Dec 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This review and more published on The Young Girl Who Loved Books.

I have not read a more moving book. Without a shadow of a doubt, this book is emotionally scarring. This is a profound, heartbreaking, and sometimes witty story that deserves the Newberry Honor it received. I am not sure there is much I hated about this book. I have never said this before but I believe this book might have no flaws.

Now for some backstory. I was wondering aimlessly around my favorite bookstore in my favorite litt
Feb 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult
This is a beautifully written and poignant story that, like many of the greats in children's literature, reveals the observations, insights and perspectives that children have about the adults in their lives. ...more
Jun 30, 2019 rated it liked it
It took me an eternity to finish this one! I’m not really sure why. It wasn’t awful or anything, I just didn’t feel any pressing need to keep reading.

The story is about Willa Jo and Little Sister (it drove me nuts that they called her that) trying to heal from the death of their baby sister, who they called Baby. (🙄) Right now they are living with their aunt while their mom also tries to heal. The story switches from past to present. In the present Willa Jo and Little Sister are on the roof and
Lesli Diaz
May 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I gave this book a 5/5 because I liked that it had lots of descriptions and also because it was interesting for me. This book was about two girls one named Little Sister and the other one named Willa Jo, they spent the summer with their aunt, Aunt Patty. When Little Sister's And Willa Jo's baby sister died Little Sister wouldn't speak she would just nod and say yes or no with her hands, as months past Willa Jo, Aunt Patty, and her mother tried to make her talk again but they couldn't.I would rec ...more
Jan 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best stories about grief and loss I've ever read. It makes me happy and frustrated that it is a "children's book." Happy because kids need and deserve books this well written (this is the caliber bridge to terabithia and on my honor WISH they were) and frustrated because adults won't read it even though they should. Books in this genre can sometimes feel manipulative, easy tear-jerking without enough substance. That doesn't happen here. You should read this book. Imagine it's ...more
Apr 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: childrens, classics
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. ...more
Oct 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This novel was fascinating, especially towards the conclusion, as unanswered questions were revealed. "Getting Near to Baby" by Audrey Couloumbis features a unique yet strange relationship between a girl, her younger sister, and the situations they were forced into. It displays the struggles of a family as a loved one has departed, while acknowledging the changes that occur in each and every character's personalities as the story proceeds. ...more
Jul 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: newbery-honor
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
Apr 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, newbery-awards
4.5 stars. I've noticed that my favorite 2018 so far reads all seem to be about daughters. Fitting, as I've been exploring in real life how it felt to be a daughter throughout childhood and what makes for healthy parent-child relationships. I loved this book even though (because?) it made me cry. It's now one of my favorite Newbery award books, as well. ...more
Jessica (The Psychotic Nerd)
This and other reviews can be found on The Psychotic Nerd

Actual Rating: 3.5 stars

Short and Simple Review
This is a fairly quick read that touches on how the death of a little sibling, and the grief of their mother, affects two young girls. The narration was strong and very apt for the age of the main character. The movement of the story was interesting as it has the frame story of the MC, Willa Jo, and Little Sister sitting on the roof of their aunt's and for some reason, they don't want to
Mar 20, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sierra Webber
Bk-15 Getting near to baby: this books starts off with Willa Jo living a normal life but soon things start to change her dad starts to rarely be present. And HSR baby sister gets really sick all night and dies the next morning. Willa Jo's younger sister stops talking amongst her greif and things start to change the house gets messy no one eats right and everyone in her family falls in deep despair so eventually the girls get sent to live with their aunt which Willa Jo does not like one bit her a ...more
Nov 03, 2019 rated it did not like it
The whole point of the book seems to be to help kids understand that adults are “real people” and have feelings too. However, the girls have been through unspeakable trauma and they really do need the adults to be adults. Patty takes them away from their mother and then makes everything all about her. I can relate to this, certainly. This is how I remember most adults being as I was growing up. But I don’t agree with the idea that kids should have to see them with understanding and compassion. T ...more
Hector A

Over the break, I read “Getting near to baby.” by Audrey Couloumbis. I discovered this book by going to a thrift store and they were throwing out books, so I decided to get a few. I decided to read this book because the book started off that their baby sister had died, and that immediately grabbed my attention.

This book was great because there was so much emotion going on, it is as if you can feel what the character is feeling. The book is very detailed like a poem. The book has so much detail t
Rachel Anderson
Jun 08, 2019 rated it liked it
This didn't make me feel anything too much for the characters, or their relationships. I liked that the protagonist, Willa Jo, questioned authority and held her ground while also growing to see other people's feelings were valid too. But I didn't feel that I was "inside" the book - it's not made clear what region or time period it's set in, and while there is some description of the landscape, I wasn't pulled into the book with local or quirky mannerisms, dialects, regional traditions, etc. I di ...more
Pamela J. Hatch
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 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 the ...more
Joe Schmidt
Feb 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book has been on my (wife's) bookshelf for about 20 years now. She doesn't remember reading it when she was in 3rd or 4th grade, though I'm sure she did. I was not really looking forward to reading it like so many other books on my list; in fact, I only read it to fill the gap until I could get back to War and Peace.

I have to say, though, this book really shook me. It has heartily earned its Newberry and I enjoyed Couloumbis's voice and narrative more than I would have imagined. Her tellin
Jun 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: juvenile-fiction
It took me a while to get into this book, but each time I put it down, there was an empty space wanting to be filled with answers. The more I got to know Willa Jo and Little Sister, as well as Aunt Patty, Uncle Hob and Mom, the more my questions yearned for answers.

This story, about a summer filled with grief and the different ways of trying to cope with it, is hauntingly spiritual. Despite the well-meaning efforts of Aunty Patty and her churchgoing neighbors, the spiritual depths are mined by a
Mar 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is such a charming book! It tells the story of 13 year old Willa Jo who is trying to make sense of life after her baby sister, known simply as Baby, dies unexpectedly. Her mother slowly falls apart, unable to clean or cook meals; her father left long ago and her younger sister, known as Little Sister, no longer speaks. Willa Jo's aunt comes to visit after Baby's death and, seeing what disarray the girls are living in, makes up her mind to take them to live with her for the summer. But Aunt ...more
Jun 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a quiet, touching story of a family dealing with grief at the loss of their baby sister. The father leaves, the mother is depressed and leaves the two girls in a state of benign neglect, the younger sister stops speaking, and the oldest daughter is left to try to hold things together. But she needs to deal with her own grief. Enter a well-meaning aunt who takes the girls to live with her and all manner of misunderstandings and pain begin. The action takes place in one day when the girls ...more
Emilee Fendlay
Nov 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book is in the genre of realistic fiction and is geared towards children ages 8-13. This book has won John Newberry Medal. This book is about a mother who has lost a child and has to go away in order to heal herself and feel closer to her child. This book has a very good theme of the realistic things of life about loss and the grief it can make a person feel. This is a very realistic book and would hopefully help children to better understand these things of life.
Oct 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
It has been a long time since I have chosen to read a book not written for adults, and I am happy to say I found it interesting and even provocative. I enjoyed the author's writing style a lot. I was surprised from time to time by what each of the main characters said or did. Especially the uncle. I wanted to know more about him! ...more
Dec 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is the story of two girls who go to live with their Aunt and Uncle when their younger sister dies, and their mom has trouble adjusting. This book can be slow at times. However, I thought the chapter where the uncle describes his grieving process over his grandfather (near the end) makes the book worth reading.
Jan 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very moving story of how various family members deal with the death of a small child. Told from the perspective of the child's older but still-young sister, the book gently takes the reader through the hurt, anger, sadness, fear, and guilt that have settled upon this family. Absolutely beautiful writing. ...more
May 19, 2021 rated it really liked it
This took me some time to get through. Not because it was boring or poorly written....but because it’s sad. I’m not into feeling sadness, but this story is about grief and how each of the family members deal with it. It wasn’t too dark or deep, but I think it would help my kids learn more about living your life after someone, who you love, dies.
Connie T.
Compared to Say Yes, I know this book is more highly regarded; it won an award, after all. However, it was Say Yes that left an impression on me and that I remember. I read them within days of each other in 2002 and I can't remember a thing about Getting Near to Baby. ...more
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Audrey is a recently transplanted (yet again) New Yorker (by choice), now in Bunker Hill, West Virginia (also by choice), where Civil War ghosts scare the dogs at night, where a CSX train track runs behind the house and the romantic sound of a faraway train can be heard three or four times a day, where she is starting a new garden of rambling roses and assorted deer-resistant flowering shrubs and ...more

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