Brushing Mom's Hair

Overview

When your mom has breast cancer, how do you cope? Ann is just short of fifteen when Mom is diagnosed with breast cancer. How can she tell the girls in ballet class that her mother had her breasts cut off? Her matter-of-fact sister, Jane, takes charge at home; her brother, Nick, calls from California; Dad helps when he can, as do friends, teachers, and relatives. Still, Ann is consumed with worry. Who's going to make sure that Mom drinks enough water, like the doctor said? Unless she is dancing or making pottery, ...

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Overview

When your mom has breast cancer, how do you cope? Ann is just short of fifteen when Mom is diagnosed with breast cancer. How can she tell the girls in ballet class that her mother had her breasts cut off? Her matter-of-fact sister, Jane, takes charge at home; her brother, Nick, calls from California; Dad helps when he can, as do friends, teachers, and relatives. Still, Ann is consumed with worry. Who's going to make sure that Mom drinks enough water, like the doctor said? Unless she is dancing or making pottery, Ann feels completely alone. She has a book that says, "Don't sweat the small stuff. And it's all small stuff." Even cancer?

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Jean Boreen
This beautifully crafted novel-in-verse follows the life of fifteen-year-old Ann as she deals with her mother's breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. Ann is very aware of her mother's double mastectomy, but finds it incredibly difficult to talk to any of her friends about what is happening to her mother and how it is impacting the family. A number of the poems highlight Ann's hyperconsciousness about what others will think of her because of her mother's illness; these are tempered by poems that highlight others reactions, from the subtlety of Ann's art teacher who does not ask about her mother but let's Ann know that she can stay in the art room as long as she likes to the neighbor who shares a story of her aunt who died from cancer. Ann's dancing is what keeps her sane during this time, and the poems that incorporate Ann's lessons and performances shine with detail and joy. The words are supported by black pen and ink drawings that illustrate, very simply and with realistic detail, the topic of the individual poems. This is a lovely book that speaks to the concerns many young people have when a parent is sick. Reviewer: Jean Boreen, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 5–9—In this slim volume, 53 free-verse poems follow a young dancer's inner life as her mother enters and survives treatment for breast cancer. Fifteen-year-old Ann has concerns that most young readers will recognize—if she has the right dress for a party, whether her turned ankle will prevent her from dancing, if boys will ever notice her the way they do her friend Suzanne. But Ann's mother's cancer brings other worries. Who can she tell that her mother "had her breasts cut off"? How can she help her mother drink 80 ounces of water a day? Will their family life ever be normal again? Does Ann or her sister Jane have the "cancer gene"? Throughout the months of her mother's chemotherapy, Ann creates batiks, learns to knit legwarmers, listens to her older sister read poetry to their mother, and ponders the difficulties that other families face. It is only on the final pages, after the crocuses bloom, that her mother recovers enough to enjoy the homey tasks of housekeeping with her daughters. With spring, too, Mom's hair begins to grow back, soft and new. Delicate pen-and-ink illustrations convey thoughtful moments as well as the exuberance and vitality of the young dancer. This quiet story based on the author's own family's experience avoids confronting some of the deepest fears that cancer can bring, but it is reassuring in the gentle way it normalizes a teen's experiences and emotions as her family copes with major illness.—Carolyn Lehman, Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA
Kirkus Reviews
Based on Cheng's experience, this candid story sensitively explores a teenager's emotions as she copes with her mother's illness and recovery during treatments for breast cancer. Writing in free verse, Ann is just shy of 15 when her mother is diagnosed. Backed by a loving and supportive family, Ann goes about her daily life, yet everything is permeated by the thought of her mother's illness. She has difficulty talking about it to friends: "I don't say, / My mom / had both her breasts cut off / and now she has stitches / covered by bandages / where they were." Instead, Ann copes by immersing herself in ballet. The author never shies from sharing the gritty details, from cleaning the tubes with bulbs attached "like turkey basters" where her breasts use to be, to hair loss, fainting and chemo treatments, all the while realistically conveying Ann's fears and uncertainty. Wong's delicate black-and-white sketches that grace each poem make Ann look somewhat younger than 15. As a result, this slim volume is likely to appeal to a correspondingly younger audience. Worthy and moving. (Fiction. 10-13)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590785997
  • Publisher: Boyds Mills Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/2009
  • Pages: 64
  • Sales rank: 778,283
  • Age range: 10 - 18 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Andrea Cheng teaches English as a Second Language and has written many books for children. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with her husband and their three children.

Nicole Wong is the illustrator of Imagine a Rainbow by Brenda Miles and Always My Grandpa by Linda Scacco, among other titles. She is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design and lives in Fall River, Massachusetts.

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