Dandelion Clocks by Rebecca Westcott
|Dandelion Clocks by Rebecca Westcott|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Linda Lawlor|
|Summary: Liv's mum has suddenly started teaching her things she won't need for ages yet, like how to cook Spaghetti Bolognese, and how to cleanse and moisturise her skin. It's almost as if she's preparing Liv for life without her.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 288||Date: March 2014|
|External links: Author's website|
This is a very difficult book to read. Make no mistake: that's not because of poor writing or a dull story — far from it — but because the story is so sad and yet uplifting, the situation so honestly and movingly portrayed that you'd need to be an automaton to read it without tears. Jacqueline Wilson is quoted as saying readers will need a large box of tissues, and she wasn't exaggerating.
Losing a parent is always horrible, but watching your mother turn from a vibrant, noisy and extravagantly affectionate woman into a thin, fragile invalid when you're only just twelve must be a special kind of hard. For Liv it's even harder because her brother has Asperger's Syndrome and even the slightest change to his routine is likely to cause a bout of screaming hysteria, so managing his reactions to the inevitable disruption has to be a priority for everyone.
And yet . . . astonishing as it may seem given the topic, this is a funny book too. Liv's mum wrote a diary when she was about the same age as Liv, and as the days count down and the terminal illness takes hold, Liv finds much to console and to advise her in the tattered old notebooks her mother has passed on. For a start, her mother made all the same mistakes and blunders she has been telling Liv off for, and she clearly went through all the same uncertainties about boys. Liv is constantly surprised at how naïve her mum was, how young she sounded, and she can't get over the number of differences between life in the eighties and now. Her mum seems more obsessed with her dead guinea pig than boys, and her notion of what would constitute a generous amount of pocket money is just pitiful!
Liv is lucky in many ways because she has a caring father and aunt, and a superbly understanding best friend. Nonetheless her attempts to cope with her grief, so delicately yet clearly depicted here, made her hard to be close to, and it does no disservice to the extremely good story to say that it can also provide helpful lessons for the friends of bereaved people in how to handle the situation. In fact, it is a book which should be in every school library. A young person going through a death in the family might find it too hard to read until time has softened the pain a little, but it would be a valuable support for classmates and friends on what to do and say. The author writes with assurance and insight — hard to believe this is her first book — and clearly has lots of experience with young people. If this is an example of the calibre of her writing, we may look forward to many more excellent books from her.
Another excellent book which deals with a family bereavement, though from a few months distance, is Binny for Short by Hilary McKay. It's a little more light-hearted than this book, but just as well written.
You can read more book reviews or buy Dandelion Clocks by Rebecca Westcott at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy Dandelion Clocks by Rebecca Westcott at Amazon.com.
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