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
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Winter Holding Spring

img438You know how when you see someone smile, it makes you smile too?  A smile or a good deed can travel far and wide. It can connect us to our neighbors and to others around the world. When my tail wags it starts all kinds of waves that connect me to everyone around. People and pets are all connected somehow, someway. When a person tells a story about their dog, it makes you think of a story about your dog. And on and on. We’re all connected. Each one of us to our neighbor. And on and on.


I think books are like that, too. All the books are somehow connected in a kind of web. A book web. Like when you find a book that you really like, you want to read more books by that author. Or you want to find more books from the illustrator. Or more books on the same subject. And on and on. They’re all connected. Each one connected to its neighbor.

This all comes to mind because this connectedness was set in motion the other day with a post that I did about a book called Mr Rabbit and the Lovely Present. This book was written by Charlotte Zolotow. When we were researching Ms Zolotow, we found that she has a daughter named Crescent Dragonwagon. A very unique name, right? A name that would be hard to forget. And I knew that I had heard that name before. And then I remembered a book that my girl, Brenna, had once read to me. A book that she really, really liked. So I went to the bookshelves and looked and looked at all the connected books. Books that were connected by Brenna. Books that she had read to me and that connected the two of us together.


And I found it! The book is Winter Holding Spring by Crescent Dragonwagon. It’s illustrated by Ronald Himler and was published in 1990 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers.


The book itself is all about connections. It’s the story of a young girl, Sarah, whose mother died the previous year. She misses her mom and  finds memories of her everywhere. She and her dad talk about the memories and the missing. And they talk about time and how time flows into itself. At the end of summer, you find bits of fall coming — a lone, yellow leaf falling down. At the end of fall, you find bits of winter coming — pumpkins waiting for pumpkin pie. At the end of winter, there are bits of spring — bulbs breaking thru the snow. And spring holds a whole lot of summer — seed catalogs, vacation plans. Each ending brings a new beginning. And fresh hope for a new way to look at the world, and at life, and at sorrow.

This is a lovely, poetic book. My Brenna girl felt particularly connected to it because her mom had died as well. She knew just how Sarah in the book was feeling. And she listened to the words that Sarah’s Dad gave to Sarah.

Brenna reads Toot and Puddle

Brenna reads Toot and Puddle

Brenna is a big girl now and lives far away so I don’t see her very often. But I sure do love it when she comes back to visit. She still reads to me, but we haven’t thought about this book in a long time. That Mr Rabbit with the lovely present brought it all back.

img219We’re all connected – people, pets, books, ideas, and on and on.

I hope that you discover some connections today.

Have a good one!

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