cover image The Goodbye Cancer Garden

The Goodbye Cancer Garden

Janna Matthies, illus. by Kristi Valiant, Albert Whitman, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-8075-2994-2

A family uses creativity and humor to cope with a mother's breast cancer treatment in this heartening and informed story, written by Matthies (Peter, the Knight with Asthma) while she was being treated for the disease. After Janie and Jeffrey learn about their mother's cancer, their parents introduce the siblings to the doctor, who explains, "...we're working very hard to make her better—probably by pumpkin time." This inspires narrator Janie to suggest planting a garden: "Watching it grow, and eating healthy veggies, will remind us Mom's getting better. Then before we know it... Hello, pumpkins, goodbye cancer!" The family plans, plants, and tends to the garden as the children's mother undergoes surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. The side effects of each stage of treatment are described in a candid yet not alarming manner. Rarely pictured without a smile, the mother exudes optimism, even turning her pre-chemo head-shaving into a "party." Valiant's (Oliver's First Christmas) wispy illustrations are characterized by frenetic sketchy outlines that initially heighten the children's nervousness, but later feel suggestive of the family's energy and hopefulness, which should reassure children facing similar ordeals. Ages 6–10. (Mar.)