Cover image for What is goodbye?
What is goodbye?
Grimes, Nikki.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Hyperion Books for Children, [2004]

Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 21 cm
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.
Reading Level:
NP Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 3.8 1.0 77712.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 5.8 6 Quiz: 36342 Guided reading level: W.
Added Author:

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3557.R489982 W46 2004 Juvenile Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



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.

Author Notes

Nikki Grimes was born and raised in New York City. She began writing poetry at age six and is well-known for writing award-winning books primarily for children and young adults. Bronx Masquerade and Talkin' About Bessie both won Coretta Scott King Awards, and her poetry collections featuring Danitra Brown are very popular. Grimes received the NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children in 2006.

She has written articles for magazines including Essence and Today's Christian Woman, as well as hosted radio programs in New York and Sweden. She has lectured and read her poetry at schools in Russia, China, Sweden, and Tanzania. Grimes is also a prolific artist, creating works of fiber art, beaded jewelry, peyote beading, handmade cards, and photography.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 4-8. At the funeral for her older brother, Jaron, Jerilyn is furious that no one tells the truth : Dead is dead. / Not \lquote gone away.' / Not \lquote lost.' / Not \lquote on a journey.' / Not \lquote passed.' Her younger brother, Jesse, is angry, too, but he's mad at Jaron: You left me . . . I hate you for that! In poems that alternate between voices, Jerilyn and Jesse describe their complicated, private thoughts as they grieve for their beloved brother. Grimes often chooses rhymed couplets for Jesse's voice, and the singsong sounds and tight rhythm create a young tone that's indicative of Jesse's age but, nonetheless, feels distractingly at odds with the somber subject and raw emotions--feelings that Grimes gets just right. Moving and wise, these are poems that beautifully capture a family's heartache as well as the bewildering questions that death brings, and they reinforce the message in Grimes' warm author's note: There's no right or wrong way to feel when someone close to you dies. --Gillian Engberg Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

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 (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.