cover image Grandad Bill's Song

Grandad Bill's Song

Jane Yolen. Philomel Books, $16.99 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-399-21802-6

Verse (often verging on doggerel) conveys this forced narrative about a boy who asks members of his family, ``What did you do on the day Grandad died?'' Mama, for example, responds, ``I looked in the mirror, and then, son, I lied. / I said to myself that my daddy's not dead. / But the mirror looked back at me, shaking its head.'' Meanwhile, the boy's grandmother remembers ``your grandaddy Billy'' as a young sailor, an uncle recalls a strong father, a great-aunt a baby brother. When the boy's father turns the question on the boy himself, the boy's anger at the loss emerges: ``So you were mad,'' says the father; ``I should have been sad,'' his son responds. The resonance of, for example, When I Die, Will I Get Better? is absent here, with almost saccharine formulas in the place of emotional truths. The elegiac tone lightens a bit in Mathis's full-color spreads, which show a memory in the making. These are interspersed with the family-album pen-and-ink repros on sad tan pages. Ages 4-8. (May)