cover image Sky Memories

Sky Memories

Pat Brisson. Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers, $14.95 (80pp) ISBN 978-0-385-32606-3

Through the first-person narrative of an 11-year-old girl, this brief hand-sized volume collects a daughter's memories of her mother's year-long descent into death from cancer. Emily and her mother begin a tradition of making ""sky memories"" the day before the woman is diagnosed. The snapshots they ""click"" in their minds evolve from one of gray sky with the merest patch of blue (""Large enough to mend a Dutchman's breeches,"" her mother says) to bleaker subjects, such as bare, skeleton-like trees against a setting sun, as Emily's fragile belief that her mother can beat her illness changes to a recognition that it will lead to her death. While Brisson's (The Summer My Father Was Ten) images aptly parallel the mother's eroding health, readers never really get to know Emily, so that the text becomes a means for connecting one sky memory to the next in a kind of poetic melancholy. The author drops some hints about Emily's thoughts--""I didn't play softball that spring"" or ""It was at times like those that I wished I had a father""--but never delves much more deeply into how the girl feels about submerging her life in deference to her mother. Without such details, it may be hard for readers to imagine how Emily's life will go on after her mother's inevitable end (despite her favorite aunt stepping in as guardian); this approach stirs up more anxiety than it delivers reassurance. Minor's (Arctic Son) dramatic watercolors focus on the sky memories, rather than on mother and daughter, further enhancing the feeling of the book as a meditation on death. Ages 10-up. (June)