cover image Counting Thyme

Counting Thyme

Melanie Conklin. Putnam, $16.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-399-17330-1

Conklin makes a strong debut with this moving family story narrated by 11-year-old Thyme, whose five-year-old brother, Val, has been fighting cancer for nine months. When he is accepted into a drug trial, the Owens family leaves San Diego for New York City, where Thyme focuses on her secret plan to return home early. Conklin realistically depicts Thyme’s culture shock in Manhattan (apartment living, Laundromats, cold weather), homesickness for her grandmother and best friend, and the roller coaster of emotions that accompany a family member’s serious illness; equally strong is the exploration of middle-school friendship difficulties and the beginnings of a first crush. While a few of the characters (such as Thyme’s crush and the woman hired to cook and accompany her to and from school) are a little too good to be true, most develop in credible ways through their individual struggles. Conklin successfully weaves together the shifting dynamics of a loving family under crisis with the less dramatic but equally heartfelt turmoil of coming of age in a new environment. Ages 10–up. Agent: Peter Knapp, New Leaf Literary & Media. (Apr.)