Review of I’ll Say Goodbye

I’ll Say Goodbye I’ll Say Goodbye
by Pam Zollman; illus. by Frances Ives
Primary    Eerdmans    40 pp.    g
3/22    978-0-8028-5499-5    $17.99

“It’s not fair. I never got to say goodbye.” This first-person account of bereavement is narrated by a child helping to care for a beloved uncle who is undergoing cancer treatment. When Uncle Mike is feeling up to it, the two spend time by the shore. One day the child finds a hermit crab and adopts it as a pet. Then the time comes when Uncle Mike must stay in the hospital; the child cannot visit his new “germ-free room” due to age restrictions, and, sadly, misses the chance to say a final farewell. Frustrated by platitudes (e.g., that Uncle Mike is in “a better place”: “What place could be better than Uncle Mike’s house on the beach?”), the child takes comfort from the seaside and its treasure trove of memories. With the help of the hermit crab, Uncle Mike’s yellow baseball cap, and Mom’s hug, the child is finally able to say a unique and heartfelt goodbye. Zollman’s text is honest, compassionate, and non-saccharine, with apt metaphors (“The ocean with its whitecaps looks upset, too”). Ives’s beautiful, subdued mixed-media illustrations gently underscore the story’s theme. With its honest presentation of death and loss, this book will serve as a good resource for adults hoping to start a conversation, in terms that children can understand.

From the July/August 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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