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Bad Bye, Good Bye

badbyegoodbyecoveruseYou know that feeling that you’ve missed something? Well, I had that feeling last week when I pulled out the titles for my class’s mock Caldecott. I blithely grabbed Bad Bye, Good Bye and thought, “Uh-oh. I never wrote about this one, did I?” In true Robin Smith fashion (ask any of my editors what a procrastinator I am), here I am, just under the wire, to chat about this fine book.

I first read about this book months and months ago when Jules Danielson interviewed the illustrator, Jonathan Bean, here on her blog. Go and read the link, because his explanation of color separation (old school!) is interesting and clear. In the comments are technical questions about brayers and Prismacolors and friskets. I got lost there for a little bit.

Here’s the skinny:

  1. I love the emotional intensity of the illustrations — even the endpapers start with a very dark blue-black and end with a sunny yellow. The title page shows one angry boy glaring at the moving man. Even his dog is furious. The stripes on the boy’s shirt are parallel with the spine of the dog, leaving no question about how these two are feeling about their family’s move to a new town and new house. The background shows the movers moving at full speed, rendered only in pencil. The title is placed on the page a little wonky, implying movement. The page turn shows the boy redder even than before—all the way to his scarlet scalp! We all know that feeling.
  2. That anger has to abate, of course, and the long nap in the car and dip in the motel pool seem to be a turning point for everyone. By the time the family arrives in the new town, after mom and dad take turns behind the wheel, everyone seems ready for the new house. Even the movers seem to have happy energy.
  3. The illustrations deftly extend the spare, rhyming couplets. I especially appreciate the “Road games /We’re here” page. It’s a brilliant interpretation of the alphabet game we always played in the car to pass the time. Bean draws a variety of signs with just about every letter of the alphabet shown, including q in antique. Another spread (“New house/New wall/New room/New wall”) shows that creepy feeling when you walk into an empty house or apartment for the first time. Everything is still in boxes and the illustrations are layered with the details that add to that strange feeling: the lone light hanging from the ceiling in the hall, other people’s wallpaper, stacks of chairs and boxes marked “pots” and “sheets.” Seeing the boy cautiously opening all the doors, one at a time, brings me right back to all my Army brat moves.
  4. The happy resolution is just right, too: this is a book for the very young reader, and it needs to be comforting. It is — right down to the fireflies, a neighbor boy who will clearly be a friend, and a climbing tree.

There is a lot going on in these illustrations, inviting the reader to slow down and explore every inch of the page. That also allows committee members lots to talk about: artistic technique, satisfying page-turns, and emotional punch. It would also make a dandy book for new readers. Geisel and Caldecott committees, pay attention to this one!


Robin Smith About Robin Smith

Robin Smith is a second-grade teacher at the Ensworth School in Nashville, Tennessee. She is a reviewer for Kirkus and The Horn Book Magazine and has served on multiple award committees.



  1. I also thought of this one as a Geisel contender!

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