Cover of Grandad Bill's Song by Jane Yolen

Grandad Bill’s Song

Almost ten years after my father died, I wrote this rhymed picture book about a boy on the day of his grandfather’s funeral. Why rhyme? I have absolutely no idea, but it was one of those books that simply poured out. The initial writing took several days and then I was weeks worrying it over. When I finally sent it out to my editor Pat Gauch, I told her I was puzzled whether the rhymes would work. She bought it immediately telling me it made her cry. It makes me cry, too. Melissa Mathis had a difficult time coming up with the concept but once she got it, she REALLY got it! What’s true about the book? The emotion. My father was a kite flier, but not in the navy. He was an army man. His baby brother was in the navy. But Dad’s name was Bill. Or Will. We never lived on a farm. But he did fly kites with us. In fact he was International Kite Flying Champion. There is no Mr. Temple, but my husband is David Stemple. He played chess, not my father. My father had four sisters and three brothers. Aunt Rose was his favorite.

What reviewers have said:

  • “An unusually sensitive and carefully wrought evocation of the impact of a death on a loving family.” — Kirkus Reviews, pointer review
  • “What gives the story its power is how each person remembers Grandad Bill at a different stage of life: boy, young sailor, strong father, chess champion. An excellent selection for a child encountering death in the family.” — USA Today
  • “The thoughtful, quiet structure of this picture book addresses feelings of sadness, anger, denial, and finally acceptance, and is particularly appropriate for a child experiencing the death of a loved one for the first time. — Booklist
  • “The rhymed text has the naturalness of conversation and is strongly expressive. Melissa Bay Mathis’s illustrations follow the dynamics of the text with care. … A versatile author and a fine illustrator have integrated their talents in a sensitive treatment of an often-difficult subject.” — Quill & Quire

Both editions are still in print.