A Story About Cancer with a Happy End­ing

In­dia Des­jardins, Mar­i­anne Fer­rer (Il­lus­tra­tor)

Foreword Reviews - - Spotlight Young Adult Fiction - NANCY POWELL

Lin­coln Chil­dren’s Books (JAN­UARY) Hard­cover $14.99 (96pp), 978-1-78603-977-4

Cancer is a dif­fi­cult sub­ject for chil­dren to process, as In­dia Des­jardins’s A Story about Cancer with a Happy End­ing shows. The book fol­lows one child’s ex­pe­ri­ence of the dis­ease with in­spired, no-holds-barred de­ter­mi­na­tion.

A teenager walks down the pale cor­ri­dors of a hospi­tal, headed to the doc­tor’s of­fice with her par­ents, ex­pect­ing to re­ceive her lat­est di­ag­no­sis. She con­sid­ers ev­ery­thing that has tran­spired within these walls: It was five years ago that she learned she had leukemia; she un­der­went treat­ments that also made her sick; she lived with the pres­sure and dis­ap­point­ment of of hav­ing to “stay strong” for her fam­ily, and found her first love while in re­mis­sion. She re­mains guarded but hope­ful for a dis­ease-free fu­ture.

Al­though the story ends happily, the teenager’s jour­ney is filled with un­cer­tainty and fear. The con­trast of col­ors in the art­work high­lights this emo­tional roller coaster. The nar­ra­tor floats across the pages in a dreamy haze, her elon­gated limbs splotched in green and grey patches to em­pha­size the pro­gres­sion of dis­ease. This al­ter­nates with splashes of laven­der that show her yearn­ing for out-of-hospi­tal ex­pe­ri­ences. She sees the fear of her di­ag­noses re­flected in the blurred and scrib­bled faces of strangers and ac­quain­tances who turn away from her.

The story builds in emo­tional in­ten­sity and cul­mi­nates in a show­down be­tween the teenager and her mother. In a mo­ment of des­per­a­tion, appealing for un­der­stand­ing, the teen asks, “Mom, if I don’t get bet­ter, will you be dis­ap­pointed in me?” It is a coura­geous ac­knowl­edge­ment of the re­al­i­ties of the sit­u­a­tion.

Des­jardins cap­tures the ex­pe­ri­ence of child­hood cancer with quiet, em­pa­thetic prose. De­spite the heav­i­ness of its sub­ject mat­ter, this brief and grip­ping story will in­spire hope through its raw and hon­est vul­ner­a­bil­ity.

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