Sammy in the Sky
Written by Barbara Walsh
Paintings by Jamie Wyeth
"His name was Sam. But I called him Sammy.
He had black and tan fur, large brown eyes, and a snout that could sniff three-day-old smells. My dad said Sammy was the best hound dog in the world. All I knew was that I loved Sammy and Sammy loved me."
The above starts this poignant story about an unnamed girl and her beloved best friend named Sammy. Sammy didn't mind wearing a pink bonnet to play house or being bandaged up to play doctor. Sammy always seemed to know when the girl in this story was sad; he had a way of nuzzling his nose in his proud owner's lap and handing her his paw. The love between the girl and her best friend Sammy was so powerful, she though it would last forever.
On Sammy's twelfth birthday, the girl's father found a lump on Sammy's neck. A lump that made Sammy sick. A lump that had no medicine to fix it. Turning away to hide his tears, the girl's father says "We've got to love Sammy as much as we can because he's not going to be with us much longer."
One day Sammy was no longer able to stand up in the kitchen. In an emotional, child friendly manner, mother explains the reality that Sammy is going to die. She describes his body as an "empty shell," but his spirit as something that will be kept alive forever.
The girl's younger sister serves as a foil character in this story. She didn't understand why Sammy couldn't come back--even if they got a really TALL ladder to get him down from the sky. Before the summer ends, the healing family takes an emotional journey to Sammy's favorite spot. They send up bubbles to the sky for him and share some of their favorite memories. A cloud that looks exactly like Sammy floats by. They all know that Sammy will always be with them. Together, they grieve.
This book is worth reading in honor of all dogs loved and lost. It's perfect for buying young readers who have suffered the loss of a loved family member. It provides a springboard for talking about death and offers children comfort in coping with it. The paintings radiate the illustrator's love of our furry friends. Coming from a dog family adds a personal connection to this fine piece of literature. Grab this read by scrolling down to the end of my posts.