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The Amazing World of Gumball Vol. 1: Fairy Tale Trouble by Ben Bocquelet
The Beginner's Goodbye by Anne Tyler
The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
Counting Thyme by Melanie Conklin
Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate
Curse of the Arctic Star by Carolyn Keene
Demon Book 1 by Jason Shiga
The Dragon That Lived Under Manhattan by E.W. Hildick
The Drowning Spool by Monica Ferris
Fenway and Hattie by Victoria J. Coe
Ghostbusters International by Erik Burnham
Graveyard Slot by Michelle Schusterman
Hip Hop Family Tree Book 4: 1984-1985 by Ed Piskor
How to Avoid Extinction by Paul Acampora
Imagine a World by Rob Gonsalves
It's a Tiger by David La Rochelle
Just Like Me by Nancy J. Cavanaugh
The Little Island by Margaret Wise Brown
The Lost Compass by Joel N. Ross
The Magic Mirror by Susan Hill Long
The Mechanical Mind of John Coggin by Elinor Teele
Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story by Nora Raleigh Baskin
Ottoline and the Purple Fox by Chris Riddell
Pouncing on Murder by Laurie Cass
Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World by Bryan Lee O'Malley
Some Kind of Courage by Dan Gemeinhart
The Soprano's Last Song by Irene Adler
Stealing the Game by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeld
The Underdogs by Sara Hammel

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Counting Thyme: 11/24/16

Counting Thyme by Melanie Conklin

Counting Thyme by Melanie Conklin is the third middle grade cancer story I've read this year. In this case, it's about an older sister having her entire life disrupted because her brother has a rare nerve cancer. The family has relocated to New York so that he can be in a drug trial.

It seems that in middle grade fiction there are two ways to tell a cancer story: either the family is forced to move because of it or the main character's world is transformed by it.

While I found the family dynamic compelling in Counting Thyme the narrative set up was too much of a hurdle. I'm coming to this book a Californian currently contemplating a cross continental move with an entirely healthy family.

There is a conceit among East Coasters that New York is the be-all and end-all of all things. In this case New York is the ONLY place running clinical trials for pediatric cancer patients. Again, as a Californian, I know that's not the case. There are trials in San Diego, Los Angeles, Davis, and San Francisco.

Of course parents would do anything in their power to get treatment for their child. But let's look at the reality of this situation — San Diegans moving nearly three thousand miles for a trial with an already ill child. A more likely scenario for San Diegans is they would find a trial in state and be put up in a Ronald MacDonald House — rather than that rat trap of an ex-flop house described in the novel.

What I'm saying is, a personal tragedy in a family doesn't have to equate to a cross-country move. A small move, likewise, can be just as disrupting to children as a big one. They will still be taken out of school. They will still be in an area they don't know as well. They will still miss their friends.

So in the case of Thyme and her family, if the story is to be set in New York for the write what you know aspect — then have her start nearby. Have her start in Upstate New York, or in New Jersey, or on Long Island.

Three stars

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