Breast Cancer Awareness Month

According to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure website, in 2011 there will be 230,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer.  That number is overwhelming to me.  In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I’ve chosen titles to represent elementary, middle, and high school readers.  These are fantastic books that can help children and teens deal with the struggle of having a loved one affected by breast cancer.

The Goodbye Cancer Garden by Janna Matthies. Illustrated by Kristi Valiant. 2011. Grades 2-4

Janie and her family receive a terrible shock when they find out Janie’s mother has breast cancer. The whole family goes to see the doctor, and when asked when their mother well be better, the doctor responds, “probably by pumpkin time.” Janie decides the best thing for the family to do is plant a garden to mark the time until their mother is better, and call it the Goodbye Cancer garden. When their mother finishes her chemotherapy and beats the cancer, the family discovers the two large pumpkins in their garden. This sweet story illustrates how families can come together during difficult times.

Brushing Mom’s Hair by Andrea Cheng. Illustrated by Nicole Wong. 2009. Grades 5-8

This slim novel in verse packs an emotional punch as readers learn of Ann’s internal struggles in dealing with her mother’s breast cancer. Just shy of fifteen, Ann copes with the changes in her family as her mother is diagnosed and treated for cancer. Ballet becomes her release of the daily worries about how to tell her friends, how to make her mother drink enough water, and her concerns that her family will never be normal again. Andrea Cheng wrote these poems after her own struggle with breast cancer, and doesn’t sugar-coat the gritty details of the treatment process. This beautiful and realistic story will help teens deal with their own emotions as they connect with Ann’s character.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. Inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd.  Illustrated by Jim Kay. (2011)   Grades 7-12

When a yew tree turns into a terrible monster and appears at Connor’s window, Connor is surprisingly unafraid. His own nightmares scare him more than this monster. The monster tells Connor three stories and expects Connor to tell him a fourth. As Connor listens to each story, he’s angry at each outcome. The good guy is bad, the bad guy is good, and nothing is as it seems. As the time draws closer to tell his truth, the truth he’s kept hidden for so long, he’s terrified at what will happen if he reveals it.

Patrick Ness created this story from an idea by Siobhan Dowd before she died. Knowing that Siobhan Dowd died of breast cancer makes this story all the more powerful and gut-wrenching. This is an incredible, emotional book that I challenge anyone to read without needing tissues.

Here’s a spread of Jim Kay’s chilling artwork.

Lindsey L.