Books for Middle School That Teach Compassion
I am not exactly sure why I am on a posting jag on books about children with cancer, but I have read both of these books recently. Nurse with the Red Clown Nose (an eBook picture book app for iPhone/iPad/iPod) and a Young Adult novel, Ever After Ever, by Jordan Sonnenblick seem to be a yin/yang serendipitous pairing. There are not many people I know whose lives haven’t been touched by cancer, and these books give a perspective from a child with cancer’s point of view. If you want to read my review of The Nurse with the Red Clown Nose, please click here.
Ever After Ever by Jordan Sonnenblick
Ever After Ever was one of the books that I read twice in quick succession and cried through each reading. A book that makes me cry is not normally one that I would then re-read, so it’s a testament to Sonnenblick’s ability to make me laugh and engage in the story. Thus I was willing to go through the emotional toll of the story not once but twice knowing full well that the kicker at the end is coming!. It’s hard to find a book that makes you laugh and cry simultaneously but this book does both.
Sonnenblick (an really excellent YA writer; this was my second of his books and now I’m a HUGE fan) says that nurse friends asked him to write on the topic of what happens after the cancer is in remission from the child’s point of view. The support base is gone because the cancer is “cured” but the after effects from the treatments can often be devastating and permanent. It’s an important story to tell that wasn’t told before, or maybe just not as excellently as Sonnenblick’s version. The nurse friends definitely picked the right person for the job!
In this YA novel, two best friends are both cancer survivors. Jeffrey Alper and Thad Ibsen are eighth graders going through the angst of teenage adolescence as well as grappling with the after effects of their battles with cancer. In Jeffrey’s case with a rare form of leukemia, he has a slight limp, difficulty paying attention, and a tough time learning math concepts. Thad’s mental capacity is razor sharp as is his wit, but he’s wheelchair bound. In an effort for each to “win the girl,” Jeffrey and Thad goad each other to rise to new challenges. Jeff, tutored with great discipline by Thad, must pass the state standardized test in order to graduate to high school. Thad, as challenged by Jeffrey, must get out of his wheelchair to practice walking again.
Add in a gorgeous but sensitive new student from California who is Jeffrey’s dream girl and Sonnenblick has covered all the bases of The Middle School Experience. One final twist is the question of standardize test score minimums as a graduation requirement — a politically polarizing issue particularly on how this should be applied to children with special needs.
I highly recommend this book but it’s particularly useful for anyone who knows a child or adult who has survived or battled cancer. For those who have been untouched by cancer (and knock wood that they will stay this way forever!), this book is also an uplifting story about middle school social politics and how one child can make a difference during a time period (i.e. Middle School) when standing out from your peers or standing up for something you believe in can seem terrifying or downright impossible.
To learn more about this book, please click on the image of the book to take a peek at the first few pages in Amazon.
p.s. I found on Jason Sonnenblick’s site, a link to an organization called SuperSibs! which is a great site to help support siblings of children with cancer and it’s in English and Spanish.