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The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Counting Thyme by Melanie Conklin is about 11-year old Thyme Owens and her family who relocate from San Diego to New York City so her 5-year-old brother, Val, can get treatment for a rare form of cancer. There's some medical information, technical but comprehensible, about neuroblastoma and its treatment, and Val experiences some painful side effects. The family's stressed and stretched but pulls together for the sake of its youngest member. Woven into this medical story is an adjustment and growth story for narrator Thyme, who yearns to be back home with her best friend but slowly integrates into her new middle school, making new friends and getting involved in the life of her new community.
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What's the story?
In COUNTING THYME, 11-year-old Thyme and her family move from San Diego to New York City so her little brother Val who has neuroblastoma, a form of cancer, can be in a clinical trial for treatment. Val's physically vulnerable, and the parents, while loving, are understandably consumed with his care, leaving Thyme to adjust to a new school and to the big city, where people live in housing that's more compact than she's used to, and travel by subway, which feels overwhelming. The story follows her arrival at a public middle school just after Thanksgiving through her grwoing acceptance of her new home as the second semester unfolds. It weaves medical information about the disease into the story, with family scenes at home and chapters set in school in which Thyme deals with typical middle school concerns such as friendships, cliques, crushes, and involvement in a school play. As Thyme adjusts, she manages to keep an old friend in California while making new friends and forging a new life in New York.
Is it any good?
A girl deals with her brother's serious illness in this sensitively written, fully fleshed out middle-grade novel that's both a portrait of a family under stress and an engaging coming-of-age story. There's some technical medical information, skillfully explained, about the boy's cancer and his treatments. The stresses on the family are credibly written -- the parents, though loving, are consumed with the boy's care, so Thyme and her teen sister, Cori, get short shrift.
The family story's braided with chapters that will resonate more broadly with readers and their everyday experiences. Thyme has to adjust to her new public middle school, where she encounters mild bullying, cliques, a Queen Bee and the girls who buzz around her, and also experiences her first crush and the seeds of new friendships we know will blossom. The portraits of this girl, her family, and New York City, are very real, and the tone is hopeful. The moving takeaway is that families need to pull together to help their most vulnerable members.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how families deal with difficulties. How do Thyme and her family deal with Val's illness? How do they work together? Has your family had difficulties? How have you pulled together?
People who are difficult to deal with. How does Thyme deal with others she's wary of: Mr. Lipinksy, Emily, Darien? How do those relationships change over time?
How does the author use seasonal clues and holidays -- Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine's Day -- to signal the passage of time?
- Author: Melanie Conklin
- Genre: Contemporary Fiction
- Topics: Arts and Dance, Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models, Middle School, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
- Publication date: April 12, 2016
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 10 - 14
- Number of pages: 320
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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