cover image THAT SUMMER


Tony Johnston, , illus. by Barry Moser. . Harcourt, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-15-201585-5

This spare tale of two brothers, one terminally ill, sounds familiar but is uncommonly moving. The boys revel in the freedom that summer brings—until the younger falls ill on the Fourth of July and quickly grows worse. "Joey was leaving," says the older brother, who narrates. "It was clear as the rain that stung his window that summer." As the boys struggle to come to terms with their grief, their grandmother teaches Joey how to quilt. He pieces together scenes of all the things he has cherished, from his dog, Spoon, to lightning bugs, baseball and country roads. In the end, it's up to his older brother to fit in the last piece as Joey's bereaved family and friends come together to finish the quilt and say good-bye. Johnston's (Amber on the Mountain) words are freighted with poetry and emotion: the grandmother's needle "flicked in and out, a fish, slim and silver"; silence seems "sweet and wide as sleep." Moser (When Willard Met Babe Ruth) supplements masterly watercolors, which depict the present tense, with album-style black-and-white "snapshots" of the two boys at various stages in childhood (these are sketched on gray paper and highlighted with white chalk). Every element, visual and verbal, is certain to tug at the heart. However, this may be best suited for kids with some exposure to loss. Ages 6-9. (May)