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What is Goodbye?

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  106 ratings  ·  37 reviews
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 ...more
Hardcover, 64 pages
Published April 1st 2004 by Disney-Hyperion
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Average rating 3.92  · 
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 ·  106 ratings  ·  37 reviews

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K.D. Absolutely
Mar 18, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: childrens, poetry
A young family with 3 kids: Jaron, Jerilyn and Jesse. Jaron dies. Jerilyn and Jesse write poems to express their sadness. Their reactions to their loss differ from each other. Jerilyn, older than Jesse, handles her emotion more maturely although she misses her older brother so much. Jesse is angry with Jaron for leaving him.

The poems are short, simple but definitely poignant and at times, heartbreaking because they are supposed to be from child's perspectives. It is also interesting to see how
David Schaafsma
A verse novel and/or collection of poetry for young people about grief. Two siblings, Jesse and his older sister Jerilyn, lament the death of their brother Jaron. The time span is on year from the time of death, and each sibling responds differently throughout the whole process of grieving, alternating perspectives. No right way to grieve, is the point. I loved the lovely sad small watercolor illustrations by Raul Colon. The color is lovely throughout. I read this for National Poetry Month with ...more
Jul 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Tina by: K.D. Absolutely
Original post at One More Page

I read and loved Nikki Grimes' A Girl Named Mister so I was very excited to get this book from Kuya Doni during one of our Goodreads meet ups. A slim volume with illustrated pages, this is a book that discusses griefs and its different effects on people struggling with it. Jerilyn and Jesse just lost their older brother -- too much too soon that they are at a loss at how to deal. Jerilyn holds it all together, showing an unruffled exterior but inside she is just
Maria Ella
Author's Note: There is no right or wrong way to feel when someone close to you dies. Some people cry away, others don't. Some get angry, others don't.

POIGNANT. HEARTFELT. and though my sister and brothers are alive and well, I CRIED AND FELT THEIR FEAR, MADNESS, and THEIR TIRED HEARTS learning to finally LET GO OF SADNESS and move along with their lives.
Jen King
Dec 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Annotated Bibliography Entry: What is Goodbye? By: Nikki Grimes


When their brother Jaron dies unexpectedly, his mom, dad and siblings, Jerilyn and Jesse are left to pick up the pieces of what he left behind. Both Jerilyn and Jesse have a hard time picking up the pieces that Jaron left behind in his passing. Both write poems to express their heartache and anger over their brother’s death. Poems are written from the perspectives of Jeri and Jesse who both handle their grief in different
Kaitlyn Richard
MY HEART! This book had me experience everything each of the characters felt. I am usually not comfortable with reading poetry, but this book was easy to follow and powerful! I picked this book because of my own grief that I am currently still experiencing. Every feeling the characters portrayed I understand and connected with. I also love how the book shows multiple perspectives and emphasizes the idea that everyone deals with things in different ways. At the end of the book the author writes, ...more
Mar 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wow-books
This book is AMAZING! This is currently my favorite book because of the emotions portrayed. "What is Goodbye?" by Nikki Grimes is a book that shows 4 different ways that people can grieve. The message behind the story is that everyone handles grief in their own way and no one should feel guilty for doing so. I was able to make so many connections to this story because of how well the poetry is written. Lately, I have been looking into Graduate School so that I can become a School Counselor. I ...more
(NS) Brea M
Nov 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Nikki Grimes tells a story of Jesse and Jerilyn mourning their brother’s death in What is Goodbye? Alternating pages have poems from each child’s perspective on the same topic. The first poems are titled Getting the News, featuring the sibling’s different emotions when they first learned of their brother’s death. The poems continue through the year long mourning process of each child. Some of the interesting poem titles are; First Fear which discusses each of their fears of death, Regrets, which ...more
L13_Allison Safran
Mar 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
"What is Goodbye?" written by Nikki Grimes and Raul Colon is a powerful text about a little boy who loses his older brother. The book is divided into poems between alternating voices of the brother and sister. The book uncovers the grief and confusion of the young authors, and it reveals very raw emotions.

I enjoyed this book because although it is sad, it has a sense of hope near the end of the book. I would use this in a classroom that is older, probably fifth grade and up, because the topic of
Steph Lovelady
Aug 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
It should go without saying that a book about two siblings dealing with the death of their older brother would be sad, but this was even sadder than I expected, heartbreaking in places. Grimes tells the story in poems, juxtaposing each of the surviving siblings' reactions to the same events in poems on facing pages. The brother and sister have different ways of experiencing grief and different voices. The book is moving and well done.
Jul 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
A heavy topic, but one that needs to be addressed. Nikki Grimes does this in a powerful, poetic way. She portrays the stages and styles of grief well. Would be a particularly useful tool in opening doors for discussion.
Jun 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, for-kids
Poignant and moving. Grimes does a great job addressing death, mourning, and sadness. Colo`n's illustrations are beautiful. ...more
Lindsey Jones
Jul 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
A good book to help kids understand grief. Also offers study on perspective
May 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
All about grief and supportive that everyone grieves in their own way for their own length of time.
Pam Bartholomew
Nov 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful, honest poems tell about the death of a loved one from the point of view of the younger brother and sister. Wonderful and unforgetable!
Apr 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
"What is Goodbye?" by Nikki Grimes is such an emotional collection of poems! This book is a collect of poems that are all connected. Jerilyn and Jesse have lost their older brother, but each of them is handling their brother’s death differently. Jerilyn tries to keep all of the emotions in, while Jesse expresses his emotions. However, after a year of pain, anger, and misunderstanding, the family is moving forward and attempting to feel like a family again. The one poem from this collection that ...more
Feb 24, 2015 added it
Shelves: childrens-poetry
What is Goodbye? is a poetry book with poem entries entered by two adolescent boys. Jesse wrote a poem titled, Places. This poem is about his brother and their trips to the barber. Jesse has never liked the barber, but his brother always tried to make it a positive experience. He did this by playing with Jesse. They would take a bus and play fight and grin. Jesse may not have liked the barber, but he did love his brother and the trip they would take together. The rhythm reinforces Jesse's ...more
Dec 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
In what is essentially a short novel told in verse, Grimes creates two distinct voices, that of Jesse and of his older sister, Jerilyn. Not only do two different text colors indicate the different characters, but also Grimes’ use of form and language. Jesse’s poems tend to have more rhythm and a stronger sense of rhyme, as well as a faster, less reflective tone – all appropriate for a boy his age. Jerilyn’s poems are written in free verse with more emphasis on her emotions and reactions to both ...more
Published in 2004 by Hyperion.
Interest Level: 6th-10th Grade

This book of poetry follows two siblings and their family through the entire grieving process. This family suffers the loss of the eldest son in the family and each sibling deals with this loss differently, which is expressed through the tone and theme of each poem. Although each set of poems has the same title, the expression of grief through each poem is extremely different in form and function. The tone and rhythm of each poem is
J. Evans
Mar 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: class-5-april-5
Class 5: April 5; Children's Poetry
Characters: Jesse, Jerilynn, their parents
Setting: The family's house and their school
Interest Level: 5-8

This story outlines the experience of one family--a brother and sister, in particular--who struggles with the loss of a member. After their brother, Jaron, passes away, Jesse seems to cope with the loss through acting out, while his sister, Jerilynn, deals with it by drawing inward. Through it all, the entire family comes to grips with the loss, and the
Jun 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
I didn't even know I had this in my classroom library until today! I was glad I came across a story told in poems so I gave it a go and read the whole thing in one sitting.

It's a sad story. Two siblings (a boy named Jesse and a girl named Jerilyn) tell what life is like after their brother Jaron dies. I think you'd have to read the Author's Note at the back to really appreciate why this book exists: "There is no right or wrong way to feel when someone close to you dies. I found that out at
Erin Forson
Nov 29, 2011 rated it liked it
What is Goodbye?
By Nikki Grimes
Currently, I am on a mission to read as many "novels in verse" (look like poems on the page) as possible. I like the format; they are short, to the point, and create vivid images in my mind that help me understand the story better. What is Goodbye, by Nikki Grimes, also comes with the added bonus of really cool color illustrations. It's about the way you might feel if your brother or sister died. Like the stages of grieving...denial (no way that happened), anger
Grimes, Nikki (2004).
Subgroup: Bereavement
Genre:Juvenile Poetry
Topics: Death, Brothers and Sisters, Grief
Synopsis: An absolutely fantastic book. Jesse and Jerilyn are borther and sister, and they recently lost their older brother Jaron. Both siblings each give their own view point to the struggles dealing with a lost sibling. Both are very poetic, but Jesse (the younger brother) has a poetic structure that is more simplistic linguistics for a younger age group, and Jerilyn (the middle sister)
Oct 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Wow. This book is so powerful and sad. This book of poetry deals with the death of an older brother. The two younger siblings, a boy and a girl express themselves as time goes by and their family deals with the grief of losing a loved one. "Dead is dead. Not "lost". The young girl expresses here feelings about how we try to explain death by using words such as lost or passed. When her brother dies she says "Dead is Dead". Death is a horrible experience that we must all go through at one time or ...more
Feb 03, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
This is a collection of poems written in two voices, that reflect the emotions of two surviving siblings of a brother who's died. Each poem captures a different phase and aspect of their grief along the road to healing. Sometimes the pain is almost too much to bear.
The illustrations by Raul Colon are also touching; he creates a palette of color and a theme of isolation that resonates along with the poems.
Nikki Grimes says what matters most in grieving, is finding a healthy way to let the
Dec 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Grades 4 and up
Shelves: poetry
What is Goodbye? is a book of poems by two siblings, a brother and sister, who lost their older brother. Each couplet of poems with the same title are juxtaposed to show each sibling's reaction to their brother's death. What is Goodbye? delves into the myriad of feelings one goes through when they lose someone they love - from anger, to sadness, to hurt, to finally acceptance and moving on.
The story (written in poem form) of the death of a family's oldest child is told by each of the two remaining siblings. It captures the very real range of emotions each child experiences as the first year after their brothers tragic death goes by. Many of the poems are illustrated. The author draws from her own experience of mourning her father's death as well as research in psychology on counseling children who have experienced a loss. A very moving book for middle school (or older) students.
Nov 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a lovely collection of short poems aimed at the middle level grades. Jerrilyn and Jesse have lost their older brother Jaron and each addresses the sadness and rage and pain in short verse. The author does a tremendous job of differentiating the voices. Jerrilyn appears to be about 13 and Jesse is maybe 10. They approach their sadness and the grieving process differently. The book is sweet, eloquent and hopeful and should be part of every middle school library.
Oct 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book of poetry written by Nikki Grimes shows the viewpoints of two siblings who lost a brother. Children 10-16 will appreciate the way both children write about their grief in this little volume of poetry. Their individual personalities really shine through. Perhaps readers will be inspired to write of their own grief.
Ruth Mika
Apr 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
A family has lost their eldest son and his brother and sister try to deal with those realities in this book. The poems go back and forth between Jesse and his sister Jerilyn. Each one dealing with loss in their own way, Jerilyn staying busy and Jesse building up anger and fighting. Can they feel happy now? But their parents are still in such grief.
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