What a mysterious title! And what sad (thoughtful? dreamy?) expressions on the two girls, rendered in a soft, yet stark black and white cover illustration! And what are they doing, sitting on a roof? I picked up Getting Near to Baby, by Audrey Couloumbis off the book rack at the thrift store and bought it. I let myself find out only that the family's baby had died, and then I began reading it.
Willa Jo is already on the roof as the story begins. Little Sister has already followed her up there as the morning breaks, and folks begin to discover them perched up there. Willa Jo tells this in her own voice, letting the story unfold gradually. She has a lot on her mind. She and Little Sister have been sent to stay with their Aunt Patty and Uncle Hob for a while after Baby died. Their mother was affected to the point she had difficulty caring for them, and Aunt Patty swooped in to take the two sisters in.
But Aunt Patty and Willa Jo are at odds from the beginning. They are both brash with strong personalities. Aunt Patty is not only trying to navigate having two children suddenly living with her, but she has never had children and doesn't always know to relate. Willa Jo is frustrated with suddenly having so much control over her own life taken away, such things as having to buy and wear new clothes she hates and having her aunt try to manage her new friendships. And underneath it all is the deep sad minefield of Baby's death.
How did Baby die? How can the family come together again? Can they help each other through this? And why did Willa Jo decide to go on the roof and hang out?
Finally, near the end of the book, we have Willa Jo's complete narrative of the event that led to Baby's death. And the reader understands why they are on the roof. Through the filter of Willa Jo's words, I did not care much for Aunt Patty. But that is the way it is when you have one side and that persons feelings influence all the description. When Willa Jo grew in her understanding, Aunt Patty became a more sympathetic figure. And it didn't hurt when Aunt Patty finally joined the girls on the roof!
In this book, I especially enjoyed the pages spent on Willa Jo's growing friendship with the neighbor girl and her eccentric family. I appreciated how firmly she was able to claim her own friendship in spite of Aunt Patty's strong disapproval.
Don't let the inherent sadness in the topic put you off this book. It is worth reading!
I paid about 2 bucks for this at Goodwill.