About the Book
In Getting Near to Baby, Audrey Couloumbis tells the story of Willa Jo and Little Sister, two girls grieving for their littlest sister, Baby. After Baby dies, Little Sister stops talking and her mother spends most of her time painting pictures of her lost infant. Aunt Patty decides the girls should live with her, and does her best to care for them. However, the girls miss their mother, and Aunt Patty doesn't always understand what they like or what they need. One morning, Willa Jo and Little Sister go up on Aunt Patty's roof to see the sun rise, and they just stay there. At first, Aunt Patty is embarrassed and angry at their behavior, especially since all the neighbors are talking. Eventually, though, she and her husband join the girls and Little Sister starts talking again to explain that they got on the roof because they were "getting near to baby." After the girls clear up their misunderstandings with Aunt Patty, their mother arrives to take them home.
Before Reading the Book
Getting Near to Baby is a moving story which revolves around the death of a baby. The story may be very powerful for students who have experienced death in their own families. Discuss with students their own fears about losing people close to them.
After students finish the book, lead a discussion using questions like those that follow.
- Like most people, Aunt Patty is a mixture of weaknesses and strengths. Sometimes she seems to care too much about what other people think, like when she advises Little Sister to get a ham sandwich instead of peanut butter and jelly because she doesn't want people to think she can't afford better. Do you think she has other weaknesses? What do you think are her strengths?
- Willa Jo and Little Sister go on the roof to watch a sunrise. Why are sunrises so important to them?
- Willa Jo thinks that Aunt Patty said all the wrong things about Baby's death when she talked to Willa Jo's mother. Why do you think that Willa Jo believes Aunt Patty should have told her mother, "It wouldn't have made a bit of difference"? What does that mean for Willa Jo?
- When Willa Jo goes to Bible school, she disobeys an adult. Miss Pettibone wants her to eat lunch under a tree where other children have been bitten by ticks. Do you think Willa Jo is right to disobey an adult in this situation? Why do you think Miss Pettibone cries?
- What does Willa Jo learn about Aunt Patty when they talk on the roof? Do you think that they will get along in the future?
- Uncle Hob says that when he lived with his grandfather, he "learned to cry unashamedly." Why does he think that's so important? Do you think it's necessary to grieve and share your loss with others when someone close to you dies?