Monday, October 12, 2009

Poetry: What is Goodbye? by Nikki Grimes

1. Bibliographic data
Grimes, Nikki. What is Goodbye? Ill. by Raul Colon. Hyperion Books for Children, New York, 2004. ISBN: 0-7868-0778-4

2. Brief plot summary
Jerilyn and Jesse’s big brother just died. As their parents struggle to put the pieces back together, Jerilyn and Jesse must cope with a new “normal”. Each topic is told from both Jerilyn’s and Jesse’s point of view so that we get see grief dealt with in different ways.

3. Critical analysis
In What is Goodbye?, Nikki Grimes has taken a topic that is so hard to talk about and written beautiful poems that focus on the new life of Jerilyn and Jesse. Each is trying so hard to get through the devastating loss of a sibling and each must do it their own way. Grimes gives the topic more depth by putting it in two different perspectives with each flowing and integrating so gracefully. In “Regrets”, Jerilyn writes,“ I yelled at him/that morning,/don’t ask me why./ My so-called reason/is small enough/to dance on the head /of a pin.” Jesse says in his side of “Regrets”, “I sneer into the mirror/ raging at the traitor standing there./ How could he go all day/ without thinking of his brother?/ Doesn’t he even care?” There is so much longing in each side. Add to “Regrets” the colored pencils drawing by Raul Colon. His illustrations add so much emotion and depth that you felt the grief coming through their eyes.

4. Review excerpts:
a. School Library Journal- “Grimes's novella in verse is a prime example of how poetry and story can be combined to extend one another.”
b. Kirkus Reviews- “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.”
c. Publishers Weekly- “Anyone who has experienced loss will recognize the gamut of emotions Grimes lays out here.”

5. Connections
a. Activities: In order to teach about expression, this would be the perfect book. It would also work well when discussing different points of view.
b. Children’s Responses: Keep in mind that some students have experienced this and to be sensitive to the topic.

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