After his grandfather died, 3-year-old Michael Hogan kept asking, "Where is he?" "Can I go there?" To help answer his questions, Martha G. Green, Michael's step-aunt, wrote Mikey and the Angel of Light.
Mikey, as his family calls him, had lived with his grandfather, John Gentry, on Indianapolis' Northside, Green said. Although Gentry had suffered a stroke, he and Mikey did a lot of things together. "They could watch their favorite shows together, they would take walks together, they would go out to eat together. They would just have lots of fun," said Green, who also lives in Indianapolis.
One of the things Mikey, who is now 6 years old, remembers about his grandfather was singing with him. They particularly liked to sing a song called Skinnamarink-a-dinky- dink, Mikey said. He also said if he had a choice to be a father or a grandfather, he would rather be a grandpa, because he loved his grandfather a lot.
When Gentry died in 1989, Mikey had a lot of questions, Green said. "Mikey, who again was very close to him, wondered about death and where he had gone. . . . He kept saying `Where is he?' `Can I go there?' And we kept saying, `He's in heaven.' " His questions inspired Green to write the book.
"It was our way of giving Mikey, first of all, peace about heaven and peace about death, (and) making sure John Gentry lived on," Green said. "My father had also passed away in 1972. So I knew that grief and death was very hard."
In the book, an angel brings Mikey to heaven, where he sees that his grandfather is happy there sitting in a "great big chair."
"The book started out as a poem trying to explain to Mikey about heaven in a fun way and to help him have peace about death," Green said. "We just did the story verse by verse. I would write a verse and I would come back and read it to Mikey and also to Amber (Green's niece), and I would ask them how did it sound, how did they feel about it, and we just made it into a game."
Green, who said she has "always" written poems and short stories, has written several other books as part of a series that includes Mikey and the Angel of Light. Her next book, due out next spring, will be about Mikey learning "that it's OK to be different and to be black," Green explained.
Green said Mikey is happy when he sees his book in the book store. "It was a fun way to teach Mikey about death and to teach him about heaven as we know heaven."
Other children like the book, too, Green said. "What's neat about it (is) that there are certain parts of the book that they know by heart. Like the part where the angel comes in and he pulls on Mikey's feet. They find that fun and the idea of flying away is fun," she said, adding that adults enjoy it also. "I think his mother and his grandmother loved the book a lot."
The book is published by Winston-Derek Publishers in Nashville, Tenn. It is targeted at 2- to 5-year-olds.
Green's book also has inspired Mikey to want to write his own book. "It helps him to put his thoughts on paper, and he's learning to spell," said Green.