...because life is delicious

Annalise and the Sky

Sep 11, 2016 | Middle grade, Poem

illustration by Joanna Shen

Annalise had a secret. She was scared of the light.

Who knew what could be lurking in places that were bright?

She kept her eyes on the ground and studied every crack.

When the sun rose high at noon, even roots could attack!


She had to walk to school under sun, clouds, or hail…

so she memorized by heart all the shadiest trails.

One sunny winter morning with no shade to be found,

she spotted something sparkling in a ditch in the ground.


A fragment of a mirror, a polished piece of glass?

“I better check this quickly or I’ll be late for class!”

She dug at the frosty soil and unearthed a black shard.

The edges were jagged and the surface was marred.


She pocketed the unknown like a gift from a king

and found it to be as light as a butterfly’s wing.

It was all she thought about, and every now and then,

when the teacher’s back was turned, she studied it again.


If she tilted it just right, she could see specks of light.

Tiny dots were twinkling like the stars at midnight.

When it was time for recess, Annalise slipped away.

She hurried to her hideout, a willow tree, to play.


She was friends with the creatures, birds and cats, over here;

where her white hair and grey eyes only served to endear.

With her back against the trunk and branches all around,

she took out the starry piece and gasped at what she found.


The black had changed to dark blue! Could this be truly happening?

She brought it close and peered at it  –  and really, it was baffling.

As seconds turned to minutes, the blue turned light and bright.

The piece grew warm inside her hand, and she smiled with delight.


That night under the covers she took out the strange piece.

It felt hotter – now yellow – but she held it with ease.

It shone, beamed and dazzled, when turned every way.

“I know it’s night now, but in this piece, it’s day!”


In school she had learned about Earth and the sun.

When one side gets light, the other gets none.

“This must be a piece of sky, lost from that side.”

Then she drifted to sleep, her mind traveled wide.


She dreamt of a freckled boy, his brows knit with worry.

“There’s a hole in my sky, girl. Quick now, we must hurry!”

Before she could say a word, he grabbed her by the hand.

He tossed a hat on her head and led her to his land.


The sky spilled open with light. She screamed and turned away.

“It’s okay, look.” he pleaded. “I haven’t got much day.”

She opened one eye a slit, a path sprang from her feet.

It flowed into an orchard, shimmering in the heat.


The summer sun beat down hard but the hat gave relief.

She could see, despite the light, every separate leaf.

When she finally looked up, sure enough it was there—

a hole the size of her piece. She felt pangs of despair.


The boy pointed at the trees. “The seasons are confused.

Because of the missing sky, the leaves are brown.” he mused.

“It’s not supposed to be fall, we need the fruit to grow.

People will starve in winter. At this rate it’ll soon snow!”


As the boy paced up and down, red leaves started to fall.

The piece was snug in her hand. Both eyes were open now.

“What should I do?” she brooded and gripped the piece tighter.

Should she tell him her secret, return what delights her?


If she keeps the piece to herself and ignores what is right,

the other side of the world may be plunged into blight!

Annalise took a deep breath and bit her lip too hard.

She mentally braced herself, to let go of her shard.


“Do you think this could help you?” she lifted her fist high.

But imagine her surprise, out came a butterfly!

It flitted up her finger and then started to fly,

fluttering up until it patched the hole in the sky.


The orchard turned green again, now studded with fruit.

The boy watched for a moment, and then jumped with a hoot.

“Thank you! Thank you, little girl!”, he exclaimed in pure bliss.

“I’m off to the cherry trees, the bounty can’t be missed!”


He clasped her hands in his and then sprinted away.

“But wait for me!” she shouted. She felt a bit betrayed.

BEEEEP BEEEEP BEEEEEEP! An alarm pierced the sky.

The path, the hat, the cherries – vanished with no goodbyes.


Annalise woke with a start and leapt up from her bed.

The piece was not in her hand and her heart sank with dread.

As she hung her head in loss she noticed something lit,

a piece of straw sticking out from her pillow a bit.


She rushed to uncover it – what magic did she find?

It was the same wide-brimmed hat that she had left behind!

She blinked in disbelief. A grin spread from cheek to cheek.

She flung the hat upwards in a sweeping golden streak.


Annalise danced on her bed with the hat cradled close.

She pulled it down past her eyes to the top of her nose.

When she sniffed it carefully, she could just about taste,

the juicy sweet of cherries and the heat it embraced.


And on that bright winter morning Annalise waltzed to school.

Never looking at the ground, never losing her cool.

For now she was protected, the hat shaded her eyes.

Sunrises were too beautiful to not look at the skies.


And so when she walked to school under sun, clouds, or hail…

She deliberately took the sunniest trails.

She thought about the boy every now and then,

Whispered, “Thank you” to him and hoped to see him again.

Cherry Cobbler

makes 6 – 8 servings

prep time: 30 minutes
cook time: 35 – 40 minutes
total time: 65 – 70 minutes


cherry filling

3/8 cup granulated sugar

1 tbsp cornstarch

1/8 tsp ground cinnamon

1 pound fresh sweet cherries, pitted

1/2 tsp lemon juice


cobbler topping

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tbsp granulated sugar

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp kosher salt

3 tbsp unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small cubes

1/2 cup whole milk

pearl sugar, for sprinkling



vanilla ice cream

chocolate mint sprigs


cherry filling

3/8 cup granulated sugar

1 tbsp cornstarch

1/8 tsp ground cinnamon

1 pound fresh sweet cherries, pitted

1/2 tsp lemon juice

cobbler topping

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tbsp granulated sugar

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp kosher salt

3 tbsp unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small cubes

1/2 cup whole milk

pearl sugar, for sprinkling


vanilla ice cream

chocolate mint sprigs


Preheat oven to 400ºF

Grease an 8-inch rectangular baking dish.

Make the cherry filling: Whisk the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon and cherries in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until the syrup is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, approximately 7-8 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Pour the filling into the baking dish.

Make the cobbler topping: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and kosher salt. Add the chilled butter, and using a pastry blender or your fingertips, cut the butter into the dry ingredients, mixing until there are no pieces of butter larger than the size of a pea. Add the milk and use a fork to gently stir the mixture until a lumpy dough forms. Do not over mix.

Using your hands, spread the cobbler topping to cover the cherry filling. Sprinkle the pearl sugar over the dough topping.

Place the baking dish into the oven, and bake for 35-40 minutes or until the cherry mixture is bubbling and the cobbler topping is golden brown.

Remove from the oven. Allow cherry cobbler crumble to sit for at least 10 minutes.

Serve with a scoop of ice cream and top with a sprig of chocolate mint.



Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

Author’s Notes

In the kitchen
Cornstarch can clump up if added directly to heat. Be sure to mix the cornstarch/sugar/cinnamon mixture with a few tablespoons of cold water or cherry juice to create a slurry before adding to the cold pan. Allow it to heat up to medium heat until the slurry starts simmering. Then add the cherries and simmer until thickened.


In the classroom
Annalise is albino and visually impaired, which is why light hurts her eyes and why using a hat becomes such an important thing in her story. According to Health Research Funding.org, albinism is a genetic mutation that affects about 1 out of every 17,000 people on the planet today. It is typically characterized by the lack of pigment that gives color to the skin, hair and eyes. The most common issue of albinism is the lack of pigmentation in the eye which creates a great sensitivity to light, a diminished sharpness in what is seen, and sometimes uncontrollable eye movements.


In life
The main character was inspired by one of my good friends, who happens to be albino. She works at an eye clinic helping people adapt to their visual disabilities to live rich lives and follow their dreams. I have been in awe of how she is simultaneously vulnerable, yet indestructible and has a heart full of compassion for others. I am honored that she has given me permission to name my character after her. Thank you Anna!