Wenny Has Wings
Wenny Has Wings © 2002 by Janet Lee Carey
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Is there life after death? Will North thinks so. Will has a near-death experience in the accident that kills his younger sister, Wenny. He remembers how happy he felt zooming through the light when he died; he remembers seeing his sister flying ahead of him. Will wants to tell his mom and dad about his near-death experience but the family isn’t ready to talk about the accident yet. So he decides to go on a daring adventure down “the tunnel of death” with his best friend Gallagher and his dog, Bullwinkle. Can Will prove there’s a connection between this world and the afterlife?
Borders Books “Original Voices”
Wenny Has Wings is a powerful, emotional, highly recommended story about learning to cope with grief and loss. —Midwest Book Review
Sony Pictures, Japan. Movie of Wenny Has Wings. Title: “Ano sora wo oboeteru”—I Remember that Sky
I died too. Not when the truck first hit us, but right after in the hospital. I had a broken leg and a ruptured spleen, and I was bleeding inside and outside. I was pretty messed up by the truck, and while they were trying to fix me, my heart stopped for a whole ten minutes.
I sped through a tunnel when I died, then I flew around in the sky. I’d be flying up there with you still if Dr. Westfall hadn’t put two paddles on my chest and shot electric energy into my heart.
Those paddles must have had a lot of power, because they sucked me back inside my body. Once my heart started pumping again, the doctors gave me an operation and filled me up with new blood so I would stay alive.
When I woke up, I found out you didn’t come back like I did. I asked Mom if Dr. Westfall used those electric paddles on your heart, but she wouldn’t give me an answer. She just started crying and had to leave the room.
So you’re flying around up there in that good place, and I’m stuck down here at Children’s Hospital with stitches in my side and with my leg all bandaged up because they had to put my shinbone back together.
Today is October 16. It’s been ten days since I died and came back. That’s why I wrote “Day 10” on the top of this letter. I want to keep track of how many days I’ve been alive again.
One bad thing happened while I was outside my body, but I don’t want to talk about that, I want to talk about the happy part. I still have some good leftover feelings from the time I spent inside the light. It’s like that good, bright light leaked into me while I was up there, and I brought some of it back. I’d be completely happy if you had come back too. We could talk about what it was like to zoom through the air and do double jumps in the sky.
I’m already starting to miss you. A big brother gets used to having a little sister around. If you were here, you’d press my control buttons so my hospital bed would go up and down. You’d want to take both cookies off my lunch tray. You’d steal my bedpan so I’d have to ask for help if I needed to pee.
I missed your memorial service on Sunday because I had to stay here in the hospital. Sometimes I start to think about you being dead and never coming back to live with us, and I have to put the pillow over my face so nobody will hear my crying.
All day long nurses keep coming into my room, saying, “Hi, Will. How’s the leg?”
“Okay,” I say, which is a total lie. Then they take my temperature and blood pressure and shoot medicine into my IV. In case you want to know, an IV’s an upside-down water bottle on a pole. Medicine runs down a long tube and into a needle that’s stuck in my left hand. The medicine goes into my blood and spreads around my whole body.
If you think I’m having trouble playing video games with a needle jammed in the back of my hand, you’re wrong. Today I played Zorgon Tracker. I killed about a gazillion zorgons and made it to the eighth level, which is, like, impossible unless you’re a total wiz-nerd.
DAY 11 (AGAIN)
I tried to tell Mom and Dad what happened when I died, but it didn’t work out so good. As soon as I started talking about the truck hitting us and how I died, Mom sat down and covered her face. She had to use a bunch of tissues from my tissue box to wipe her eyes and blow her nose.
Dad didn’t cry like Mom, but he didn’t look at me either. He just grabbed my bed rail and stared out the window. With his dark hair and pale skin, he looked like one of those black-and-white pictures he takes.
I gave up talking to them. I’ll try to tell them some other time. Right now I’m wiped out. I’ve signed up for the TV so I can play Zorgon Tracker again this afternoon. I’m going to win the gut zapper on the ninth level, then I’m going to fight my way to the tenth level before dinner, I’ve decided.
The truck driver sent us an “I’m so sorry” card. Mom and Dad showed it to me this afternoon. The cover has pink and yellow flowers on it (girl stuff). The card says his brakes went out all of a sudden while he was going down that steep hill. He was honking for us to get out of the way. He swerved and tried not to hit us, and he is so sorry. If there is anything he can do, he’ll do it.
The card made Mom cry. She yanked a bunch of Kleenex from my box and made these little gulping sounds. Dad stood behind her with his hands on her shoulders. He squinted at my IV bag and clenched his jaw. I could see the muscles in his cheeks moving in and out like he was trying to crack a jawbreaker.
“I need to use the toilet,” I said. Dad helped me into my wheelchair and pushed me to the bathroom. I didn’t have to pee. I just had to get out of that room. I didn’t want to see Dad’s jaw muscles bulging out or hear Mom making those little gulping sounds anymore.
DAY 12 (LATE AT NIGHT)
You’d better be awake, because I had a bad dream. We were walking on a road in a dark forest. There was just one streetlamp. All of a sudden the trees kind of melted. A big green truck hit you and crushed you. It hit me and sent me flying across the road.
I woke up all sweaty. I crushed the card the truck driver sent me and threw it into the laundry hamper with all the puked-on sheets.
I couldn’t talk today. I knew if I tried to talk, I’d cry, so I kept my mouth shut. I know you’re happy zooming around up there in that warm light. Maybe you’ve learned how to do flips in the air by now, so you probably don’t miss me like I miss you.
I miss you hard, with an ache in my stomach and a sandpaper feeling all down my throat. I miss you like a big, empty, shut-up, quiet space torn out of my guts, and nothing can patch up that great big ugly hole you left.
If I’d stayed dead and flown farther in to meet that light person with you, I’d be in heaven now. I’d be feeling just fine. I wouldn’t have this operation scar or this pain in my leg. I wouldn’t be stuck in this stupid hospital bed. I wouldn’t have to look at Dad’s face.
I didn’t even talk when Dad came to visit me today. He played cards with me awhile, then left. I was glad to see him go. I don’t like being around him right now. His eyes look like his darkroom at home. I mean no light in them at all. When he looks at me, I want to punch his face and make him fly across the room. Then maybe he’d get mad and I’d see something different in his eyes.
Only it’s not Dad I want to punch, it’s you. I want to punch your face for leaving me alone down here.
I’m sorry this letter is so messy. You can show it to God if you want. He can mark it up with his red pen and give me a big, fat F, for all I care!
Copyright © 2002 by Janet Lee Carey
Read The Discussion Questions
“Wenny Has Wings is a powerful, emotional, highly recommended story about learning to cope with grief and loss. Read more
—Midwest Book Review
“A gentle epistolary novel requiring at least three hankies. Eleven-year-old Will writes to his seven-year-old sister Wenny. A truck hit them both on their way to a craft store, and Wenny was killed. Will remembers a dark tunnel and a bright warm light; he remembers seeing his little sister fly past him into that light. Read more
“Grade 4-6 Will North, 11, is in the hospital recuperating from an accident in which his little sister was killed. While still in the emergency room, he sees her flying free and happy in the sky, but returns to his body after seeing his parents’ grief. Read more
—School Library Journal
“Will North and his seven-year-old sister, Wenny were crossing the street when a truck’s brakes failed. Both of them died, but the doctor brought Will back. Now he must deal with the loss of his sister and his drastically changed parents, who barely acknowledge on another and find it difficult to deal with his survival... Carey provides an interesting take on a fresh topic-children who have near-death experiences. Will tells his story in a series of letters to Wenny. He blames himself for not being able to protect her, and he’s angry with her for leaving him alone... despite the many books on death, this one stands apart-for its particularly good job of illuminating the sibling relationship and its unique capturing of the phenomenon of heading into the light. ”
“Carey (Molly’s Fire) brings a new approach to a familiar story line in this often heartrending novel, conveyed as a series of letters written by 11-year-old Will to his younger sister, who was killed in an accident that Will only barely survived. Read more