A song, an instrumental, performed by the Allman Brothers Band, written by Dicky Betts. He once describe the song as the bouncing joy that he felt when he saw his daughter, Jessica, take her first few steps. It almost makes a southerner like me weep everytime I hear it. The original recording is contained on the great album, Brothers & Sisters.


She is gone now

I knew her as a teenager
just on the shore of her life
before she ran
on skinny legs
bare footed
into the waves

I missed my chance
to meet the woman
she would become

Speaking to her father
years later
I was told of the accident

Written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes

Ruthie Simms didn't have a pet, or a sister, but she had Jessica, and she was much better.

Jessica does everything with Ruthie. When Ruthie eats, Jessica is hungry too. When Ruthie makes a mess, it is Jessica who was clumsy. When Ruthie's parents go out and leave a babysitter, it is Jessica who gets a tummy ache and needs them to stay home.

'There IS no Jessica', her parents insisted, but Ruthie knew better.

And then Ruthie starts kindergarten, and her father suggests she leave Jessica at home for the day. Of course she does not. Of course she spends the day whispering quietly to her Jessica, scared. BUT. BUT BUT BUT then she makes a new friend, and guess what her name is? This is how we discover that Jessica is real, something Ruthie knew all along.

So: Henkes's illustrations in this book are delightful watercolor and pen-and-ink drawings that draw you right into Ruthie and Jessica's world. He even includes small handwritten cartoon dialogue, small tender conversations and confidences. Lovely crisp narrative. Small manageable plot twist for the children. Happy ending for the children. And a warm mush spot in my heart for this book.

This book was chosen as School Library Journal's Best Book of the Year, Horn Book Fanfare Honor List, IRA/CBC Children's Choice, and American Bookseller's Pick of the Lists.

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