Award-Winning AWB (Award-Winning-Books) 2013 Books GB Challenges Loss, Heartbreak, and Coming of Age Picture Books Read-a-Latte Reading Themes

Loss and Grief in Poetry for Young Readers: Lucille Clifton’s Everett Anderson’s Goodbye and Jane Yolen’s Grandad Bill’s Song


Hello, Fats here. Today I’m sharing with you two illustrated poetry books for children about loss and grief. When Lucille Clifton’s Everett Anderson’s Goodbye popped up on my list for our theme, I originally planned to feature it for Poetry Friday. When I opened Grandad Bill’s Song by Jane Yolen, I realized it was a perfect companion to the former. So here they are, two different portrayals of loss and heartbreak.

Because it’s poetry-related, I have also decided to join the Poetry Friday funwagon, late though as this post may be. This week’s Poetry Friday round-up is hosted by the lovely Jone from Check It Out.

Everett Anderson’s Goodbye9780805008005

Written by: Lucille Clifton
Illustrated by: Ann Grifalconi
Published by: Henry Hold and Company
Book borrowed from the library.
Book photo taken by me.

I picked up Lucille Clifton’s Everett Anderson’s Goodbye not only because it was awarded the Coretta Scott King Award but also because the cover art reminded me of Cornrows which I reviewed for last year’s Black History Month. Ann Grifalconi’s beautiful black and white illustrations complement the moving story of Everett Anderson and the emotional struggles he had gone through upon the death of his father. I borrowed this book without realizing that the story was told in verses. The verses in the book are short, simple, and poignant.

“I promise to learn my
nine times nine
and never sleep late or
gobble my bread
if I can see Daddy
walking, and talking, and
waving his hand, and
turning his head.

“I will do everything you say
if Daddy can be alive today.”


I think that the beauty of this book comes from the fact that it manages to portray emotions without using too many words. That being said, Everett Anderson’s Goodbye is a good book to teach children about the five stages of grief, thereby helping them understand what a person—more importantly, a child—goes through when a loved one dies.

Grandad Bill’s Song345986

Words by: Jane Yolen
Illustrated by: Melissa Bay Bathis
Published by: Philomel Books
Book borrowed from the library.
Book photo taken by me.

In Grandad Bill’s Song, Jane Yolen explores a young boy’s feelings—through the help of other people—as he comes to grip with his Grandad Bill’s death. Listening to their stories about his grandfather made the young boy realize that these were memories they shared with Grandad Bill. These did not capture how he felt when Grandad Bill died. Luckily for the boy, there are people like his father that helped him verbalize his feelings.

But that’s not how I felt.
Nobody knows how I felt.

How did you feel?
I can’t tell you. It wasn’t nice. It wasn’t good.
I wish you would.

Son, what did you do on the day Grandad died?
I wanted to kick out. I wanted to hide.
I hated somebody, I couldn’t think who.
There was nothing I wanted to see or to do.


Jane Yolen’s poetry is a lyrical portrayal of how people turn to good memories to help them cope with the death of a loved one while, at the same time, capturing the hurt and sadness that a young child feels. Melissa Bay Mathis brings these images to life with alternating monochrome and color illustrations. I like how she used color to emphasize the beautiful memories that people shared with Grandad Bill. I hope that, in reading Jane Yolen’s Grandad Bill’s Song, children would find comfort in the thought that the loved ones they have lost live through other people and in their hearts.


Everett Anderson’s Goodbye
Coretta Scott King Award, 1984

AWB Reading Challenge Update: 33 of 35


Read-a-Latte Challenge Update: 151 (150)

Fats is the Assistant Manager for Circulation Services at the Wayne County Public Library in Wooster, Ohio. She considers herself a reader of all sorts, although she needs to work on her non-fiction reading. Fats likes a good mystery but is not too fond of thrillers. She takes book hoarding seriously and enjoys collecting bookmarks and tote bags. When she is not reading, Fats likes to shop pet apparel for her cat Penny (who absolutely loathes it).

5 comments on “Loss and Grief in Poetry for Young Readers: Lucille Clifton’s Everett Anderson’s Goodbye and Jane Yolen’s Grandad Bill’s Song

  1. These are lovely and important. Thank you for sharing them.


  2. These look and sound beautiful Fats. I will be sure to find them to read. Thanks for both.


  3. Those look like good books for a classroom library — masterful writing *and* illustrations.


  4. So beautiful, so meaningful… the kind of book you hope to never have reason to recommend to a child, but are glad it’s there just the same.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: