Sammy in the Sky

Barbara Walsh, illus. by Jamie Wyeth. Candlewick, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-7636-4927-2
The title of Walsh's debut and the use of the past tense make it clear that Sammy, "the best hound dog in the whole world," is not going to make it: "Daddy found a bump on Sammy's neck; it was as big as a baseball." Wyeth's (Cabbages and Kings) watercolors capture Sammy's floppy ears, patient expression, and sloppy kisses for his overall-wearing mistress; readers will love him, too, and they'll find his impending death just as difficult as his owners do. The girl's mother tells her what to expect: "When he leaves, his body will be like an empty shell, but his spirit will be everywhere.... All the good things about Sammy, like his love for you, will be yours to keep forever." The family travels through their grief together: "You're still the best hound dog in the whole wide world," the girl shouts to a Sammy-shaped cloud as they gather months later on the beach to celebrate his life. As a model of good mourning, it's a fruitful resource; as an account of loss, it goes to the pit of the stomach. Ages 4–7. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 06/20/2011
Release date: 08/01/2011
Genre: Children's
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