What I Came to Tell You

Egmont USA, 2013
  • Fall 2013 Okra Pick by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA)
  • Starred Reviews in Publisher’s Weekly and the Bulletin for the Center of Children’s Books.
  • American Booksellers Association’s 2014 ABC Best Books for Children Catalog.
  • 2014 VOYA Top Shelf Pick for Fiction for Middle School Readers
  • 2015-16 Nominee for the North Carolina Young Adult Award

Since his mother's death Grover has been having a hard time. The only thing that gives him solace is the hours he spends working on his art in the beloved bamboo grove near his Asheville home. His overworked father belittles his efforts; he feels his son is wasting his time and throwing his life away. As tensions within and without the family build to a boiling point, help tiptoes into their lives. A mountain family has moved into the cheap rental nearby, and slowly they work their way into Grover’s forest—and his heart. A prickly and independent neighbor proves to be a stalwart pillar to Grover and his little sister. Even the peculiar young man who always lurks around them plays a role in lifting Grover and his family from their paralyzing grief. Finally, it’s Grover’s own unwavering dedication to his art that brings results that neither he nor his family see coming.


“Tommy Hays tells a story that rips open your heart. This is a novel about what it means to face loss at an early age, and how salvation comes through both the creation of art and acts of everyday kindness. I loved this book.” —Holly Goldberg Sloan, author of Counting by 7’s and I’ll Be There

“Hays makes good use of the novel’s Asheville setting… and Asheville comes across as a cosmopolitan place with a small-town feel. … Hays is especially strong at depicting the network of people, old and young, who help Grover and his family move through their grief and, along the way, save his beloved forest.” Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)

“Just as Grover spends every spare moment in the Bamboo Forest weaving lovely tapestries from natural materials, Hays spins a heartfelt tale in which all the key elements blend beautifully, from memorable characters to the strong sense of a specific Southern place.” —Julie Bookman,  The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Hays is a gifted storyteller, offering up an effective balance of credible emotion, understated wisdom, and gentle humor.” The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (starred review)

“… filled with touching honesty and youthful wisdom… ” Booklist

“Tommy Hays has quietly but steadily established himself as one of the South’s finest novelists, and now he has written his best book yet. What I Came to Tell You is a great-hearted novel filled with wisdom and truth.” —Ron Rash,  The New York Times best-selling author of Serena and The Caretaker

… a glowing addition to the pantheon of great novels for children.” —Jennifer Prince,  The Asheville Citizen Times

“… a thoughtful, tender look at a family devastated by grief.” Book Page

“[What I Came to Tell You] offers us a model of a boy who looks to art as a doorway, who processes his pain with nimble fingers and a beating heart, a boy who feels. It shows us that there are lots of different ways to meet the challenges life has in store for us, and that tenderness is not a liability but an asset. It delivers the power of art, in its theme and its execution.” —Thom Barthelmess, Butler Children’s Literature Center at Dominican University

“Tender, touching and utterly compelling, What I Came to Tell You is a story of grief, love and hard-won redemption.” The Gaston Gazette

What I Came to Tell You is as sweet and steely as the best of Southern storytelling, filled with love, loss and heart-warming redemption.” —Robert Lipsyte, author of The Contender

“Rich in its sense of place and soul satisfying,  What I Came to Tell You is an affecting tale of loss and rebirth and forgiveness that is sure to please readers of Because of Winn-Dixie.—Lauren Baratz-Logsted, author of Little Women and Me

“Like the artistry of Grover’s weavings in the bamboo forest, Tommy Hays’ What I Came to Tell You captures the heartbeat of a young boy’s journey to find his way after a tragic loss in Thomas Wolfe country in Asheville, North Carolina. It’s a story of learning to listen with your whole heart and head, one filled with grace, grief, and ultimately, hope, as a broken family weaves itself back together in a dazzling tapestry of love and joy.” —Kerry Madden, author of Gentle’s Holler