This spare first-person account of a boy coping with his grandfather's death beautifully portrays something rare and surprisingly valuable: the opportunity to grieve for a loved one even while he is still alive.
Jake and 88-year-old Billy are "kindred souls." They live on a farm that their family has owned for generations; in fact, Billy was born in a sod house he remembers fondly, the ruins of which still exist on the property. This is an intense, rewarding read: Readers see Billy directly through Jake's young eyes; there is no omniscient voice explaining that Billy is reaching the end of his days, and that's why he is sometimes childlike himself. Some may realize the inevitable early on; Jake's mistaken confidence in Billy's immortality—"I don't worry about him dying. He will live forever. I know that," and "And Billy is going to live forever," are representative thoughts—foreshadows the inevitable. Jake and his siblings undertake a remarkably ambitious project: They rebuild the sod house; Billy moves into it, and he eventually passes away there. The joy the children take in the effort, along with the knowledge that they have enabled someone they love to finish out his days at peace—at home—comforts.
It's rare to find a children's book that deals so well with death as part of life, offering kids an effective approach to coping with sadness that incorporates humor, love and joy. (Fiction. 8-11)