Cover image for Getting near to baby
Getting near to baby
Couloumbis, Audrey.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Putnam, 1999.
Physical Description:
211 pages ; 22 cm
Although thirteen-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.
Reading Level:
740 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 5.1 6.0 32742.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 6.1 11 Quiz: 21136 Guided reading level: V.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Young Adult Fiction Young Adult

On Order



When twelve-year-old Willa Jo climbs onto the roof at Aunt Patty's house to see the sunrise, she never expects the conflicted feelings she's had for three weeks to crystallize into a stubbornness that will keep her there all day. But once she's up there, Willa Jo can't seem to come down. Coming down means having to explain herself. And ho can she explain?After Baby died, Little Sister stopped talking. Then Aunt Patty took the girls away from Mom to give her time to pull herself together. Aunt Patty has a million rules about everything, and she seems to have forgotten that Willa Jo and Little Sister are trying to cope with loosing Baby, too. And missing Mom something fierce.In this beautifully-structured novel-which takes place all in one day-two generations of big sisters struggle with what being a big sister means. Couloumbis masterfully shows us the pervasive feelings that can take hold when tragedy strikes and the slow, subtle healing that comes when one can finally get near to the source.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Gr. 5^-9. When their baby sister dies and their mother slips into a depression, 12-year-old Willa Jo and Little Sister are taken to live with their mother's older sister. Aunt Patty is a take-charge kind of person--good-hearted but bossy. It doesn't take long for Willa Jo, herself an older sister, to get fed up her with her aunt's ideas of what's good for her nieces. That's not why the girls wind up out on the roof, but it may be why they refuse to come back into the house. Don't ask Little Sister for the answer, though; she stopped talking when Baby died. No amount of cajoling will force her to speak, but Willa Jo is eloquent enough for both. Set in North Carolina, the story is told in Willa Jo's distinctly Southern voice, a treat to hear but sometimes too adult to believe. The characters are credible, though, engaging and multidimensional. So is their grief and the ways they deal with it so they can, once again, get "near to Baby." Couloumbis' first novel wears its heart on one sleeve and its humor on the other. Together, they make a splendid fit. --Michael Cart

Publisher's Weekly Review

In her first novel for children, Couloumbis deftly constructs an intricate montage of thoughts and memories from the perspective of 12-year-old Willa Jo Dean who, with Little Sister, mourns the death of their baby sister. As the story opens, Willa Jo and Little Sister are sitting on the roof, ignoring their Aunt Patty's orders to come down. Over the course of a single day, Willa Jo, from her high perch, mulls over the events of the past few weeks: her mother's depression, Little Sister's refusal to talk and Aunt Patty's efforts to make things right by taking the girls into her home. But Aunt Patty and her nieces don't see things the same way. Willa Jo and Little Sister would rather play with the children across the street (dirty "mole rats," in Aunt Patty's opinion) than attend Bible School or associate with the socially acceptable daughters of Aunt Patty's friends. The tension rises until Uncle Hob, in his soft-spoken way, forms a bridge of understanding that unites them all. Willa Jo's narrative, with its subtle cadences of a Southern drawl, achieves a child's sense of the timelessness of long summer days stretching before her. Coloumbis infuses the heroine's voice with an elegiac quality, even as the child's humor and determination to keep up Little Sister's spirits shine through. The tale of this one day on the roof chronicles the changes in the other three characters as much as the changes in Willa Jo, and the combined strength of this unforgettable cast of characters leaves a lasting and uplifting impression. Ages 10-up. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Gr 6-8-When their baby sibling dies, two sisters are sent to stay with their domineering Aunt Patty. A poignant and uplifting novel told from a child's wise and down-to-earth perspective. (Oct.) (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

Gr 5-8-Audrey Couloumbis' first children's novel (Putnam, 1999) is an exquisitely-crafted story of loss, family love, and new beginnings, with a generous dollop of down-home humor. While their mother is trying to cope with the death of their baby sister, 13-year-old Willa Jo and eight-year-old Little Sister are spending a few weeks with Aunt Patty and Uncle Hob. Everyone is trying to be cooperative and supportive, but Aunt Patty and Willa Jo are often at odds over matters such the girls' playmates and how to deal with Little Sister's grief-induced silence. Everything comes to a head when the girls climb onto the roof to watch the sunrise and remain there throughout the day. Uncle Hob's understanding, Aunt Patty's genuine concern, and Willa Jo's reflections on her feelings turn a potential crisis into a growth experience for all of them. Mischa Barton's soft Carolina cadence conveys the emotional and the ironic moments of the book with grace and power. Sound quality is good, and the cassettes and case are well marked. This is an exceptional recording of an exceptional book that offers meaningful insights on some universal truths about grief and healing.-Barbara Wysocki, Cora J. Belden Library, Rocky Hill, CT (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Things don't feel right here. I want to open my eyes in the morning to see my very own wallpaper with the tiny blue flowers and pink rosebuds. Aunt Patty does not believe in putting up wallpaper, not even in the bathroom. She says mold grows behind it. I want Mom to read to us for an hour before bedtime, all of us in a clump like alligators in the sun so we can all look at the pictures together. Aunt Patty tucks us into bed before it is even full dark. We want our mom. We're worried about her having to sleep all alone. We worry that she doesn't eat right, now that she doesn't have us to feed. We miss her. I hear Aunt Patty's bossy voice, rousing Uncle Hob out of his bed. She's telling him he has to come outside to order us down. Or to plead with us, whichever he thinks will work. That sad feeling I have hardens into a mad feeling and I don't think I'll ever get down off this roof. I'll stay here till kingdom comes. Excerpted from Getting near to Baby by Audrey Couloumbis All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

1 Early Morningp. 1
2 Birds of a Featherp. 6
3 The Trouble with Aunt Pattyp. 10
4 Don't Do This, Don't Do Thatp. 17
5 A Tough Nut to Crackp. 24
6 Forbidden Friendsp. 33
7 After Baby Diedp. 42
8 Seeing the Excavationp. 51
9 Two Peas in a Podp. 67
10 Mrs. Wainwright's Daughterp. 78
11 Aunt Patty's Great Ideap. 89
12 A Day at Bible Schoolp. 95
13 The Way Things Sometimes Work Outp. 104
14 The Piggly Wiggly Picklep. 114
15 Second Thoughtsp. 126
16 A Day at the Fairp. 134
17 Until Milly Camep. 145
18 Seeing Baby Off to Heavenp. 154
19 Aunt Patty's Arrivalp. 163
20 Uncle Hobp. 167
21 The Last Strawp. 174
22 Talking Things Overp. 180
23 Aunt Patty Stands Alonep. 184
24 Aunt Patty Sees the Lightp. 191
25 The End of a Long Waitp. 210