Tag Archives: charles santoso

a pair of picture books on saying goodbye


Two picture books on saying goodbye, the first an imagination-infused farewell to a grandparent, the second, a love letter to companionship. Both reassure us that goodbye isn’t the end of the story.


Grandad’s Island by Benji Davies (2015)

Grandad is going on a journey and he invites Syd along. They embark through Grandad’s attic, which serves as portal. It makes sense that the attic is the portal. It’s full of all Grandad’s things, fragments of the adventures and obsessions of a well-lived life.


(click image(s) to enlarge)

They sail together to an island. But only Syd will return home (with the kitten).


“…I’m thinking of staying.”

“Oh,” said Syd. “But won’t you be lonely?”

“No…no, I don’t think I will,” said Grandad, smiling.

Grandad will stay in the jungle on his island with all kinds of creatures, his book and tea, his phonograph. It’s wonderful on Grandad’s island. What a vibrant place for Syd to imagine his Grandad hanging out.



This saying-goodbye story shows how our imaginations can help us cope with loss while commemorating a loved one. While Grandad’s final adventure is on his island, Syd will carry that adventurous spirit with him every time he himself sets sail.


Big thanks to Candlewick for images

GRANDAD’S ISLAND. Copyright © 2015 by Benji Davies. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.



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Ida, Always by Caron Levis and Charles Santoso (2016)

Gus and Ida are friends. They’re also polar bears who live at the zoo in a big city. The city is another character in this book, a backdrop  whose heartbeat Gus and Ida hear and that’s beautifully weaved into the illustrations.




“You don’t have to see it to feel it,” said Ida. 

These two spend every day together in this zoo, in this city. Until the day Ida gets sick and the zookeeper tells Gus he will need to say goodbye. I love the sadness and anger these two bears express. The growl and stomp and snarl. It feels no good to have to say goodbye.



But then, they start to. They snuggle and laugh and comfort. They growl some more. They spend time alone and together. This portrayal of letting go feels so true to life, so true to love.


And then, a goodbye is never final. Because you don’t have to see someone to feel them. They’re there. Always.


Big thanks to Simon & Schuster for images!



14463272I’ve written about picture books on loss before and I’d add My Father’s Arms Are a Boat and Boats for Papa to that list as well. If a child (or anyone) is in the unfortunate position of having to say goodbye, I think these books make worthwhile companions to the process.