That Summer

There’s a word that I’ve been hearing a lot lately. A bad word. Cancer. It seems to be everywhere. There are two young people in our small town who are fighting courageous battles right now. I’m hearing of lots of prayer requests and prayer circles – sending lots of  loving energy into the world. My cousin, Romeo, has cancer. All of my special humans are having discussions about the best way to deal with this. And just today I found out that another canine friend has left us for the land of eternal tennis balls. Cancer. I suppose that everyone everywhere has a story to tell about Cancer. I have a book to share. A sad book, but a hopeful, uplifting kind of sad.

IMG_2287That Summer
by Tony Johnson
illustrated by Barry Moser
published by Harcourt, Inc. in 2002

Theme – cancer, grief, family, quilts

A fiction book suitable for 1st grade and up

It begins –
That summer began like always,
with hoots and shouts, all of us running
into the sun,
freed from school,
over the porch,
over the lawn,
down the hollows,
Joey and I ran
like there was no tomorrow.

For these two brothers, the summer begins like every other summer – fun in the sun!!! But soon they are faced with Joey getting sick. And then, too soon, they are faced with Joey dying. “What do you do when ….. your heart hurts with grieving?” You cry and you dream walk. And you start to cherish every moment.

The boys’ Gram starts a quilt. And Joey decides to make one, too. A quilt that will piece together all the things that he loves. An owl, a fishing pole, a lightening bug, a baseball glove. Throughout the summer, the two brothers and the family and their friends, find ways to capture JOY. Ways to cheat that bad word – Cancer. That word is never actually mentioned in the book. But at one point Joey loses his hair and his brother shaves his own head. The youngsters in our town who are doing their best to cheat Cancer are dealing with those kinds of things too.

IMG_2290In the end, Joey does die. He leaves behind some bursting hearts. But also a quilt – stitched with love.

My readers had a bit of a hard time with this book. Some of them know the kids at school with cancer and the story was a little too close for them. But it opened some avenues for talk – and that’s a good thing. It’s a beautifully poetic book with some incredible, emotion-filled illustrations by Mr Moser.

In my younger days I visited a Children’s Hospital. There were lots of youngsters there fighting their personal battles with cancer and other illnesses. I sooo admired those kids and their families. They are all heroes in my book.

You can find out more about Cancer issues HERE at the American Cancer Society website.
And there are some good links and resources at Kids Cancer Network HERE.

You might want to participate in a local Relay for Life event. You can get more information about that HERE.

HERE is a fun idea for a friendship quilt wall display. And another fun Quilt idea HERE at Teach Preschool.

And for some info about canine Cancer check out 2 Million Dogs HERE. A few years ago, a young man had a dog with cancer and he decided to go on a walk to generate awareness for canine cancer. So he and his 2 Great Pyrenees dogs went on a journey from Austin, Texas to Boston, Massachusetts. And that journey has blossomed into a HUGE deal!!

And now after you’ve dried your eyes, you might want to go visit Susanna Hill’s blog where you’ll find a huge list of PERFECT PICTURE BOOKS and lots of resources to go with!

I’ll leave you with a song of hope from Mr Zach Sobiech –

I hope your tomorrows are bright and sunny!
Your ever hopeful and tail waggin’ friend
Rhythm
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An Ode to Jamie Wyeth, St. Gretta, and St. Alex

The Mom Person went off this weekend to spend some time with one of her Very Special Friends. I didn’t get to go, but it seems that she had a great time. They became friends a very long time ago when they each had a different dog than they have now. The Mom Person had a black Lab — St. Gretta. Kay had a Great Pyrenees that I’m guessing was a saint as well. His name was Alex. And the 4 of them spent a lot of time together visiting hospitals and such, doing Animal Assisted Therapy and doing their part to make the world a little bit better for lots of kids.

img221St. Alex

The Mom Person and Kay have a mutual admiration for the Wyeth family of artists. N.C., Andrew, and Jamie. And this weekend Kay gave the Mom Person a treasure of a book that is illustrated by Jamie Wyeth. The book is titled Sammy in the Sky, and is written by Barbara Walsh. It was published in 2011 by Candlewick Press.

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It is a love story between a dog and his girl. “My dad said Sammy was the best hound dog in the whole world. All I knew was that I loved Sammy and Sammy loved me.” But dogs don’t live as long as little girls and when Sammy’s life on earth comes to an end, the girl and her family find a way to celebrate the joy that was Sammy.  This is a BooHoo kind of story. My Mom Person was shedding a lot of tears. Ultimately that’s what loving a dog is all about. Tears of joy, tears of triumph, tears of frustration, tears of sadness. And lots of laughter to go along with the tears. We dogs have pretty strong spirits. The Mom Person still sees St Gretta around sometimes and I know that when I leave this world I really won’t be gone.

For me, this book was all about smiles. Sammy had a great family who loved and cherished him for the dog that he was. And they kept that love strong even after he was gone. What more could a dog ask for?

Death is not a happy topic of conversation, but it is a part of everyone’s life. Ms. Walsh has created a lovely story of a blissful relationship between a girl and a dog. And Mr. Wyeth’s paintings are a perfect fit. Sammy in the Sky is a beautiful celebration of a super dog. It is truly a treasure book. You should check it out.