Saying Goodbye and Talking to Todd Parr

Kids can be blunt.

As Max and I started to read Todd Parr’s The Goodbye Book, he asked me a question.

“Are you going to cry again?”

He wasn’t being mean, his mama had been crying a lot this summer. My parents’ bestie Tim was in hospice and the kids knew I was visiting  daily.

I had been honest with Max and Calvin about where I was going and why. And of course, they had a lot of questions and comments.

They wanted to know what Tim looked like when he was sick and if he could eat cookie dough everyday when he went to heaven. Max said he thought heaven was “orange with lots of angels.” Calvin suggested he visit an amusement park on the last day of his life.

I checked out Todd’s book from the library, probably more for myself than Max and Calvin.

Its message really did help me, so I can imagine it would soothe a child experiencing loss.


Using a goldfish who has lost his friend, Todd writes, “It’s hard say goodbye. You might be very sad. You might not feel like talking to anyone. Eventually you’ll start to feel better. You’ll remember how you laughed.”

I felt better when my sweet Max said during the reading, ”Mama, you don’t have to worry about Tim anymore. He’s in heaven.”

We love Todd Parr at our house and I missed his visit to the kids’ school last year. Todd was kind enough to answer my questions about The Goodbye Book.

Todd, you wrote that this was the hardest book to write. Can you tell me a little bit about that? Is some of it based on your experience with your dog Bully?

For years people have been asking if I had thought about doing a book about grief and loss. I knew this would be a great topic for me to write about but only if I could figure out a way that would be honest but not too sad or scary. The Goodbye Book came about one weekend when I was looking through some old images of The Family Book. There is a page in that book that says “All families are sad when they lose someone they love.” It was the fish! That’s how I knew I was on the right track for The Goodbye Book.

My kids are very curious about death and hard topics. Do you find this as well when you talk to kids?

Yes, kids are very matter of fact. But you don’t want to scare them.

I cried the first time I read The Goodbye Book to my kids. I think it’s ok that they know I’m sad. Do a lot of adults tell you the emotions they have from your books? 


Yes, I have received many emails from adults telling me how The Goodbye Book helped them deal with their loss. One email from was a 75-year-old woman who had just lost her husband of 50 years. She said my comforting words had helped her sleep for the first time in a week. It made me feel good after I shed a few tears.

Were you always funny – my kids never tire of the silly underwear in your books! Does this come from your own childhood?

My dad was funny. I’m not so sure about me. I do know that underwear makes kids laugh. I write about a lot of things that are hard for kids to understand like peace, the earth, being different. So using my simple images and humor helps me deliver my messages.

Thank you for showing kids (and adults) that families and communities are made up of all kinds of people! What’s up for 2018?

My pleasure. There is a new book slotted for next Fall. I’m not sure what the title will be yet. The Brother Book and The Sister Book will be in 2018.

Do you ever draw on the walls?

Yes, all the time. Only I don’t get in trouble anymore.

Thanks, Todd!

Dedicated to Timothy Neel a dear friend and “uncle.” You are missed. 


Tim was a social butterfly!



Take me out to the ballgame

Sandy Koufax used to live in our house.

Not being a sports girl, I used to throw out this fun fact to sports fans of a certain age. Now it impresses Max.

His new obsession is baseball.


Max at a Reds game.

You learn things from your kids. Through Max’s former obsessions I figured out who Harley Quinn was, grew an appreciation for Diplodocus, and caught up on the more recent Star Wars characters.

Now I know about Big Papi, Billy Hamilton, and Joey Votto. Our summer has involved playing baseball, watching baseball, talking about baseball. (Calvin has a vague interest but mostly for Max’s sake.) He tries and then goes back to his traffic jams.

“I knew Jay Bruce was going to get traded but I’m still sad when I hear about it,” said my little fan.

Our favorite books

I’m ok with Max recording and watching EVERY SINGLE Reds game but I’ve also used his new focus to get him to read.

Here are some of our favorites that even Calvin and I can get into. They are so many inspiring stories about players who have overcome obstacles.

A favorite is I Am Jackie Robinson by Brad Meltzer. (We love all of Meltzer’s We Can All Be Heroes books about famous people and how they overcame challenges – Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln.)

Silent Star The Story of Deaf Major Leaguer William Hoy  by Bill Wise and Adam Gustavson is fantastic and he played for the Reds!


Calvin, Maxfield, and Max at the ballpark!

And don’t forget the female players – The Kid from Diamond Street, The Extraordinary Story of Baseball Legend Edith Houghton by Audrey Vernick and illustrated by Steven Salerno – is a gem.

Sports Illustrated Kids Baseball Then to Wow is a great introduction to the game.

Max found The Love of Baseball in a used bookstore on vacation and could not put it down.

And don’t forget Sandy Koufax – check out You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax?! By Johan Winter & Andre Carrilho.

If you’re wondering about Sandy Koufax, he lived in our Clifton house when it was a fraternity Phi Lamda Phi and he played for University of Cincinnati. An additional fun tidbit – my friend Annie’s grandfather played with him!