A Great Nephew and a Great Aunt Guests: Betsy Devany and Her Grandson, Landon

poetry friday button

Thanks to Catherine at Reading to the Core for hosting Poetry Friday. If you’d like to know more about Poetry Friday, click HERE for an explanation by Renee LaTulippe.

Ants may rule the hill, but they don’t rule here! Art by Landon
Ants may rule the hill, but they don’t rule here! Art by Landon

Hello, Great Readers of our series! Just In case you haven’t visited before, let me tell you a little about A Great Nephew and A Great Aunt. My great nephew, Landon (a seventh-grader) and I (his great aunt) collaborate. I write a poem which he illustrates. We started this collaboration in the fall of 2014 and have had so much fun with it that we decided to invite others along. Landon and I will continue to have a new episode on one Friday of each month. The other Fridays are filling up quickly with guests. I have created a page on my website to view all the episodes of A Great Nephew and a Great Aunt. Click HERE to visit the page and enjoy past episodes.

Today it’s my pleasure to share a creative collaboration from . . .

Betsy Devany and her Grandson, Landon (5 years old)

Before you hear from Betsy I wanted to say that this collaboration touched my heart like none before. It’s sweet and sad and happy all rolled into one which I believe are some of the emotions we feel as we move through grief when we lose someone so very close.

From Betsy: My grandson Landon has been train-obsessed since his Pop Pop introduced him to the world of model trains. Landon wasn’t even one at the time. So when Landon and I talked about this project, it didn’t surprise me when he drew a train, inspiring a poem with lots of fun train sounds.
That wasn’t what Landon wanted.
“I drew this train for Pop Pop and I want the poem to be for Pop Pop, too.”
Landon, who is five, is still grieving Pop Pop. (My husband died on June 1, 2016, five months after being diagnosed with ALS.)
Wanting to write the poem on his own, Landon wasn’t sure where to begin. “Who did you draw the picture for?” I asked. “I drew the train for Pop Pop,” he said. So he started there, asking for my help along the way.
Through this collaborative process I was reminded how art can heal us. It’s how we find our voices after we’ve lost our way. And sometimes art helps a young child express their grief and discover the world is still a safe place. And that there will always be trains and memories of Pop Pop. 

by Landon and Betsy (last stanza is Betsy’s)

Landon’s Art

Art by Landon

Landon at work on another drawing.

Landon and Pop Pop.Landon giving Pop Pop an Eskimo kiss.The collaborators: Betsy and Landon.

Many thanks to Betsy and Landon for sharing their talents with us today.

Meet Betsy: Betsy writes for all ages of children, and is the author of Lucy’s Lovey, illustrated by Christopher Denise, and published by Henry Holt/Christy Ottaviano Books. When not writing, she explores the natural world with her camera, entertains her three grandkids, and is honing her Legos and model train skills. She also works part-time at an old-fashioned toy store where she delights in hand-selling children’s books. She has a blog series (#WhosYourLovey) where guests share their childhood lovey stories. Betsy lives near Mystic, CT with her rescue dog, Buddy and her rescue cat, Terrapin. You can connect with Betsy online:

41 thoughts on “A Great Nephew and a Great Aunt Guests: Betsy Devany and Her Grandson, Landon

  1. Penny this is a truly heartfelt story, thanks for sharing Betsy and Landon with us. I loved their poem, and I especially liked brandon’s train drawings-the ladder in the train house is a wonderful detail! I’m so glad that art is helping Brandon to move through his grief, that’s a hard thing for us adults to handle and even more trying for children.

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  2. If we only ask children to share their feelings, we might be surprised at the candor they use. While sad, it seems Landon showed what he wanted exactly, and wrote beautifully about his Pop Pop. My granddaughter who’s now nearly 8 still talks about her grandfather, my husband, who passed away when she was 4. She remembers well all that they did together and likes talking about him. Landon will, too, and I hope this collaboration of writing and drawing will add to his memories for his grandfather. I’m sorry for your loss, Betsy. What a loving thing you did with your grandson. Thanks again, Penny.

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  3. Oh, I get so many caregivers coming in desperate for more train-related books – it’s amazing the fascination that these machines hold for little boys in particular!

    This will be such a wonderful memory for you and Landon to treasure, and to revisit on those days when life just seems to lose its shine. There’s nothing quite like a child’s enthusiastic, loving artwork to remind you of all the wonder that the world still holds.

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  4. I love the poem and the picture. Both are magical and I’m sure they’ve made PopPop very proud. I mean who wouldn’t want to be the “best train guy?” And of course, the story behind the story brought a little extra magic to the whole process.

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  5. So touching and poignant, sad and beautiful all at the same time. Yes, the power of poetry and art to heal. Thank you so much Betsy and Landon for sharing what’s in your hearts. So sorry for your loss.

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  6. Pop Pop is smiling right now! I am so sorry for your loss, Betsy and Landon… and so grateful for this poem and artwork as a way to remember… it’s up to US to keep the spirits of loved ones alive… thank you! xo

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  7. Oh, I just melted inside when I read Betsy’s poem, Landon’s artwork and all the pictures. You see the dear relationship between Landon and his grandfather. Such a great opportunity for Landon.

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  8. Betsy and Landon, Such a beautiful picture and poem. I’m sure Pop Pop heard your train roll by. p.s. Has Landon been to the Long Island Railroad Museum in Riverhead, NY? There’s also a museum in Greenport, but the one in Riverhead is truly awesome. The museum is only open during the summer and fall b/c it’s run by volunteers. Lionel donated a number of the exhibits and there’s a put-put train that you can ride on. You can also explore old train cars. It’s a very special place. (When my son was younger, we used to go every weekend.)

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  9. i cried when I read this. It’s infused with so much love and beauty! Beautiful Landon with a sweet, loving heart – and those eyelashes – I want them! Beautiful, wise, grieving, and talented Betsy who helped her grandson deal constructively with his sadness. Beautiful spirit of Pop Pop who will always live on in their hearts.

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  10. Sad and so very beautiful all at the same time, and a poem that truly comes from the heart. I agree that writing and art can be healing. I hope this activity has helped Landon process some of his grief. Thank you for sharing this touching collaboration with us, and I hope you’re doing well, Betsy, and finding your voice again too.

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