Prather’s Pick: ‘Holes in the Sky’ a moving picture book
“Holes in the Sky” is Patricia Polacco’s most recent picture book for children. Polacco has written more than 100 picture books based on her childhood. In fact, she is the “Trisha” in many of her stories, as is the case in this week’s book.
As the story begins, it is a hot night, so Trisha, her brother Richie, and grandmother, their Babushka, spread blankets out in the yard. It is a custom that Babushka brought with her from Russia. They all lie there, looking up into the star-lit sky.
Babushka tells her grandchildren the stars are holes in the sky. The light they see is heaven showing through the other side. The holes are the way to heaven, where people go when it’s their time.
What her grandchildren don’t know is that Babushka is ill, and she has been hiding it from them. So now, she tells Trisha and Richie she will be going through the holes soon, but she will be watching over them each night. She will even send them a sign so they will know she’s watching.
Less than a month later, Babushka leaves them. The children are devastated. Grandpa sells the farm, the children’s mother takes a teaching job in California, and she and the children spend several days on the road to their new home. Each night Trisha looks at the stars and waits for her grandmother’s sign.
Their home, in Oakland, is on Ocean View Drive, a culturally diverse neighborhood. The family has arrived in the middle of a drought. It’s so bad that nobody is allowed to use a hose to water their lawns and plants. The grass is brown, and the plants have dried up. However, Trisha’s family likes their house, and soon, they’re settled in. Trisha continues to gaze at the stars each night, but still there is no sign from Babushka.
One day, Stewart, a boy from down the street, shows up at their door carrying a basket of flowers. Stewart says it’s a May basket and asks if she’d like to buy it. Trisha says it isn’t May, but Stewart doesn’t pay any attention. When he notices a lot of art paper on a table in the house, Stewart wants to know if Trisha would like to make some May baskets. They end up making several.
Trisha wonders where he got the flowers, since there’s a drought and all, but Stewart just pulls the baskets down the street in his wagon, and she follows. What a surprise! In front of Stewart’s house, right there on the brown grass, are containers full of flowers. Stewart says they have grown them by using waste water from washing machines and sinks. Come to find out, other families have been doing the same thing.
Trisha and Stewart become good friends. One day, she meets his grandmother, Miss Eula. Trisha continues to look from a sign from her own grandmother.
There’s a lot more to come from this book, including a neighborhood effort to help mean old Mrs. Bacci. And the sign from Babushka? It’s there, too.
This moving book is published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons (2018). It costs $18.99 in hardcover. You can also find the book in the children’s room at the Craig branch of Moffat County Libraries.