"Counting Thyme": middle-grade novel explores family, emotions, illness

Book review of "Counting Thyme" by Melanie Conklin - review written by Melody Palmer, Youth Librarian at South Broken Arrow Library

*Join Miss Melody and other readers ages 9-12 every month for the "In the Middle Book Group" at the South Broken Arrow Library! The next In the Middle is Monday, September 25 from 6:30 until 7:30 p.m. "Raymie Nightingale" by Kate DiCamillo is the book discussed. Light refreshments and fun!*

Thyme's family is devastated when her younger brother, Val, is diagnosed with neuroblastoma, nerve cancer. After he finishes several rounds of chemo in California, the medicine isn't working as expected anymore, so the family decides to move to New York for a new medicine trial. While Thyme and big sister Cori want their brother to get well, changing schools in the middle of the year creates many challenges for them. Thyme struggles with feelings of guilt and disloyalty to her best friend in California, Shani, when she begins to make friends and become involved in school activities. She also struggles to find her new place in the family, as they are consumed with helping Val stay well.

Children will enjoy this book because they can related to the realistic portrayal of family dynamics as well as making friends in a new place without forgetting old friends. Parents will enjoy reading this book with their middle grade student as it exposes problems parents encounter in making sure all their children feel loved and understood, especially when one child faces a life-threatening illness. This book also offers information about neuroblastoma in easily-understandable terms to assist any family faced with this illness. The characters are well-developed, enabling the reader to empathize with Thyme and her family. The book is well-written, brings readers along for an emotional roller coaster ride, and offers many opportunities for discussion throughout. Highly recommended for middle-grade readers and their parents.

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