Sky Memories

Image from the book

Image from the book

Image from the book

Image from the book

Pat Brisson's lyric and loving novella, full of richness and meaning, is masterfully accompanied by Wendell Minor's exquisite watercolor paintings. Sensitive and insightful, SKY MEMORIES gracefully conveys the heartbreak of loss and, ultimately, the comfort of memory. Emily is 10 years old when her mother is diagnosed with cancer. By the time she has turned 11, her mother will have died. But through the painful last months of their life together, Emily and Mom find a way to celebrate and commemorate their relationship: Together they gather ãsky memories,ä mental pictures of the sky in all its variety and wonder - the sky that seems to reflect the phases of Mom's illness and the vitality of her soul. Their memories Emily will have forever.

We stood there, holding hands and staring at the late-September sky. The wind blew our hair across our cheeks and stirred up the smell of damp earth and fallen leaves. Just then a flock of birds flew across the scene, as though we had planned it that way.

"When you think you're really seeing everything, squeeze my hand. That will be like the click of the camera."

I stood very still for about fifteen seconds; then I squeezed my mother's hand.

"Click!" we said together, and laughed. "I love you, munchkin," she said.

"I love you, too, Mom," I told her.

She was right about that patch of blue sky: The day got nicer and nicer as it wore on.

That was my first sky memory, and I'll never forget it, because the very next day my mother found out she had cancer.

From The Publisher

Readers young and old will be touched and inspired by this honest story about love and loss:

When Emily is 10-years-old her mother is diagnosed with cancer, and by the time Emily has turned 11, her mother will be gone. But in the last months of their life together, Emily and her mother find a way to celebrate and commemorate their relationship. Together, they gather, "sky memories," mental pictures of the sky in all of its beauty and diversity. Although she will lose her mother, Emily's memories of their life will be forever.


Ten-year old Emily and her mother gather their first sky memory when Emily asks why Montana is called the "Big Sky" state. Emily's mother says that people who live in Montana can probably see more of the sky, but that the sky above Emily and her mom is wonderful, too, because it's always changing. Walking out to a soccer field, they watch the sky closely and squeeze hands when they are ready to capture the moment. The next day Emily's mother finds out she has cancer. Although the mother is optimistic in the beginning, as her illness worsens, she tries to prepare Emily for her impending death. Wendell Minor's watercolor paintings beautifully capture the varied sky memories Emily and her mother collect in the following months, as Emily experiences the pain, anger, and anguish of losing Mother but also the love and support she gets from Aunt Vicki, who moves in to help, and from best friend Laura. A quiet, moving story.


A small, slim book with a big heart and worthy aspirations. Emily is just 10-years-old when her mother is diagnosed with cancer. Like a scrapbook of photos, the story captures the 10 months from the discovery of the disease to the woman's death. Each period is remembered by a vivid sky portrait shared by Emily and her mother. Together they focus on the brilliance and variety of clouds, trees, weather, and light. They clasp and squeeze each other's hands like the click of a camera, capturing in their memory a shared, special time. By the tale's end, Emily continues to appreciate and "collect" a beautiful evening sky that her mother would have enjoyed. Minor's watercolor paintings reflect the changing color and dramatic vistas the author skillfully paints with words. Although the night sky is large, Emily's immediate universe is quite small. Thankfully, the child has a best friend and an aunt who takes over when her mother dies. The author is honest about the stages of illness and physical reactions to chemotherapy, but never overwhelms readers with too much detail. Brisson wrote this easy-to-read novel with the hope that it would be useful to terminally ill mothers trying to prepare their children for their impending death. It should serve that purpose quite well.


The ten-year-old narrator of this short novel begins her story on an ordinary day that her mother encourages her to see as "regular wonderful." Mother and daughter capture the scene by gazing upwards until they are ready to make a "sky memory," squeezing hands and saying "click" once they decide they are "really seeing everything." The story goes on to describe the changes that take place in the lives of this mother and daughter starting the "very next day" when the daughter tells us "my mother found out she had cancer." This accessible narrative handles its emotional subject with restraint, communicating the difficulties of this tragic situation from the point of view of the girl who has to deal with the disruption of the rich family life she shares with her single mother. In clear, concrete language Emily describes her feelings during her mother's illness and her sadness after her mother's death ("I was still so tired when I woke up that it seemed as if my body was held to my mattress with sacks of sand"). Full page watercolors with an airbrushed quality illustrate each sky memory, softening the effect of the brief word pictures describing the physical deterioration of Emily's mother while emphasizing the theme that memories can mitigate the pain of loss.

Creativity 29 - Gold Medal

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