This story is written from the perspective of Mira, a young girl of 12, whose beloved grandmother Josie, an artist and political activist who’s lived a happy and fulfilled life, is dying of cancer.  It’s about how Nana and Mira deal with all that this involves emotionally and physically and with their family and friends who have their own issues of love, grief and loss to deal with.  All the action takes place in a month of Mira’s life, each chapter a day in her diary.  It won the Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize.

This is a work of fiction but it manages to include very useful information about: cancer (pain, treatment, weight loss, fatigue, loss of appetite), what hospices do, planning a funeral, leaving lasting memories to your family, dealing with loss and grief, the value of creative writing in addressing these problems, rites of passage (menstruation, first love, death), faith and beliefs.

I think it’s a wonderful celebration of life without dodging any of the pain and heartache, physical and emotional, of the death of someone very dear.  I hope I will be able to die as well as Nana and bequeath something as precious to my children and grandchildren as she did.

I laughed and cried and was deeply moved at times.  One touch I particularly enjoyed is Mira’s habit of referring to people by their descriptions:  Question Mark, Headscarf Lady, Notsurewho Notsurewhat (God).  The artichoke heart is a very powerful symbol of love and life and this is a very life enhancing book.          J.O’F

Pub by Macmillan Children’s Books 2011. ISBN 978-0330517911