cover image WHAT IS GOODBYE?


Nikki Grimes, , illus. by Raúl Colón. . Hyperion, $15.99 (57pp) ISBN 978-0-7868-0778-9

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. Colón'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.)