What is Goodbye?

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Jerilyn and Jesse have lost their beloved older brother. But each of them deals with Jaron's death differently. Jerilyn tries to keep it in and hold it together; Jesse acts out. But after a year of anger, pain, and guilt, they come to understand that it's time to move on. It's time for a new family picture-with one piece missing, yet whole again. Through the alternating voices of a brother and sister, Nikki Grimes eloquently portrays the grieving process in this gem of a book that is honest, powerful, and ...
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Overview

Jerilyn and Jesse have lost their beloved older brother. But each of them deals with Jaron's death differently. Jerilyn tries to keep it in and hold it together; Jesse acts out. But after a year of anger, pain, and guilt, they come to understand that it's time to move on. It's time for a new family picture-with one piece missing, yet whole again. Through the alternating voices of a brother and sister, Nikki Grimes eloquently portrays the grieving process in this gem of a book that is honest, powerful, and ultimately hopeful. Nikki Grimes is the distinguished author of more than two-dozen children's books. She received the 2003 Coretta Scott King Award for her novel Bronx Masquerade and a 2003 Coretta Scott King Honor citation for Talkin' About Bessie. Many of her books have been cited as Notable Books by the American Library Association, including Come Sunday, a picture book in verse; Something on My Mind; and Meet Danitra Brown, which also won a Coretta Scott King Honor. She lives in southern California.

Alternating poems by a brother and sister convey their feelings about the death of their older brother and the impact it had on their family.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Insightfully and concisely, Grimes (Bronx Masquerade) traces the stages of grief and healing, through the 26 paired poems of two siblings mourning their older brother, Jaron. Jesse, "too young" to go to the funeral, expresses loss in raw terms; his poems always lead the pairings. His sister, Jerilyn, is older than Jesse, but younger than Jaron; she tends to hide her hurt. Anyone who has experienced loss will recognize the gamut of emotions Grimes lays out here. Jesse expresses that momentary forgetfulness, when he first wakes in "The Day After": "Saturday is here at last./ Time for soccer! What a blast" and several lines later, his realization, " `Do I have to mow the lawn?/ It's not my turn. It's ' Oh. He's...." In the excellent juxtaposition for "His Name," Jesse uses a flurry of words ("Mommy won't say Jaron's name/ so I write it everywhere/ on the walls, my book, his chair"), while Jerilyn contrasts the meaning of Jaron's name ("to sing") with the silence since he's been gone. And Jesse beautifully sums up the time it takes to heal: "They're telling me/ my heart is wrong/ for hurting past/ the date they set?/ Well, I'm not ready/ to move on yet." Both siblings observe the changes in their home, and when the family begins to come together again, readers who grieve will feel that they can recover, too. Col n's inset paintings, often incorporating symbolic elements that convey the abstract quality of feelings, round out this portrait of a loving family coping, alone and together, with their grief. Ages 8-12. (Apr.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Death is not a subject that we dwell on or spend much time really thinking about. To consider one's own mortality or that of a loved one is just too sad and depressing. But many people die every day, and they leave behind family and friends. In this collection of poems, readers experience with a brother and sister the loss of an older brother. The impact his death has on them and their parents results in a change in their home life and the way they relate to each other. It is a very difficult and sad year for all of them. They each deal with their grief and sorrow in a different way and experience the guilt of trying to enjoy life again. The collection ends with the family coming together—healing after the wrenching loss. The final poem is entitled " Photograph—Poem for Two Voices" where Jesse and Jerilyn, the younger siblings, who have revealed their personal anguish now speak as one when the family has a new picture taken—"a new kind of family./ One piece.../One piece missing, but we're whole again." An excellent choice to give to any family grieving over the loss of a child and one that may really help the children in that family. Colon's illustrations range from somber expressions and cool tones of blue and green to pictures that slowly warm up until the final one with splashes of red and smiles on the faces of the once again whole family, which is not totally whole, but certainly working hard to find joy in life. 2004, Hyperion, Ages 8 to 12.
—Marilyn Courtot
School Library Journal
Gr 3-8-Grimes's novella in verse is a prime example of how poetry and story can be combined to extend one another. When their brother dies, Jerilyn and Jesse cope with the anger, confusion, and the silence that grief brings to their family. Jesse's rhyming verse faces his older sister's free-verse comments on her experiences. When Jesse hits a home run in a league game soon after his brother's death, he glows, "I took off around the field,/legs pumping like lightning!/I slid into home plate clean./Man, I'm so cool,/I'm frightening!/-What am I supposed to do,/spend each minute crying?/I wish I could please you, Mom,/but I'm sick of trying." Jerilyn muses, "It's his right to smile,/isn't it?/To be delirious?/So what if I don't understand?/This ghost town,/draped in shadow,/is desperate for/a few more watts of light." Grimes handles these two voices fluently and lucidly, shaping her characters through her form. Colon's paintings in muted colors combine imagism with realism to create an emotional dreamscape on nearly every page. The clean design combined with the book's short, easy pace and small size give readers a comfortable place from which to listen to the characters as they make their way from "Getting the News" to "Anniversary," and finally to "Ordinary Days." The book closes with a poem in two voices, and Jesse and Jerilyn come together for a new family photograph. "Smile!"-and readers will. Fans of Vera B. Williams's Amber Was Brave, Essie Was Smart (Greenwillow, 2001) will appreciate this powerful title.-Nina Lindsay, Oakland Public Library, CA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The unimaginably painful situation of losing a sibling is the theme of this poetry collection, told in alternating viewpoints by a younger brother and sister in the year after their older brother's sudden death from an unspecified cause. The 52 poems are organized in pairs with the same title, moving in subject from the initial shock of hearing of the death, through the funeral, and then through the stages of grief and on to the gradual adjustment to the new circumstances of their changed family life. Grimes succeeds in creating distinct personalities for each member of the family and distinctly different ways of dealing with their grief as well. Most of the poems by the brother, Jesse, are rhymed and shorter, while those in the voice of his older sister are unrhymed and more sophisticated in structure and introspection. Grimes addresses many areas of the grief process, often in a poignant fashion that is hard to witness; the boy hears his father crying in the night, for instance. Small colored-pencil illustrations thoughtfully capture some of the conflicting emotions and images in the poetry. (author's note) (Poetry. 9-13)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786807789
  • Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
  • Publication date: 4/1/2004
  • Pages: 64
  • Product dimensions: 5.87 (w) x 8.12 (h) x 0.37 (d)

Meet the Author


Nikki Grimes won the 2005 Coretta Scott King Author Honor Award for Dark Sons. She is the distinguished author of more than thirty-one children's books, including What is Goodbye?, a 2004 ALA Notable Book. She received the 2003 Coretta Scott King Award for her novel Bronx Masquerade as well as a 2003 Coretta Scott King Author Honor for her picture book Talkin' About Bessie: The Story of Aviator Elizabeth Coleman. Many of her other books have been cited as Notable Books by the American Library Association, including Come Sunday, a picture book in verse; Something on My Mind; and Meet Danitra Brown, which also won a Coretta Scott King Honor. She lives in Corona, California.

Ral Coln has illustrated more than twenty-five books for children including Celebration by Jane Resh Thomas, A Band of Angels by Deborah Hopkinson, and What Is Goodbye? by Nikki Grimes. He's won a Pura Belpr Award for Illustration for Doa Flor: A Tall Tale About A Giant Woman With A Great Big Heart by Pat Mora, and has been awarded a Silver and Gold medal from The Society of Illustrators. He lives and works in New York.

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2006

    What is goodbye

    This book was great I love the author's range, and the different perspectives of each character. I was able to relate to each of the characters' styles of coping with grief. This was a great story of tragedy and trial but also a great story of triumph.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2006

    WOW THIS IS AWESOME!!!

    what is goodbye is such a good book! it is a quick read- it took me about an hour and it was so sad. Definately read it because it really makes sense. I read it in one sitting and nearly started crying. good book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 25, 2004

    If you really want to know what the children are thinking when they lose a loved one

    This is such a beautiful, poetic telling of two children's perspectives of loss. This book reminds us all to take extra care of the children during the death of a loved one and don't assume their outward appearance tells how they're really feeling.

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