A family uses creativity and humor to cope with a mother's breast cancer treatment in this heartening and informed story, written by Matthies (Peter, the Knight with Asthma) while she was being treated for the disease. After Janie and Jeffrey learn about their mother's cancer, their parents introduce the siblings to the doctor, who explains, "...we're working very hard to make her better—probably by pumpkin time." This inspires narrator Janie to suggest planting a garden: "Watching it grow, and eating healthy veggies, will remind us Mom's getting better. Then before we know it... Hello, pumpkins, goodbye cancer!" The family plans, plants, and tends to the garden as the children's mother undergoes surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. The side effects of each stage of treatment are described in a candid yet not alarming manner. Rarely pictured without a smile, the mother exudes optimism, even turning her pre-chemo head-shaving into a "party." Valiant's (Oliver's First Christmas) wispy illustrations are characterized by frenetic sketchy outlines that initially heighten the children's nervousness, but later feel suggestive of the family's energy and hopefulness, which should reassure children facing similar ordeals. Ages 6–10. (Mar.)
- Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Janie, whose mother is diagnosed with breast cancer, offers reassurance and comfort to other youngsters in a similar position. It is winter when her mother has her necessary operation, and when Janie has an idea. She suggests planting a garden, to grow healthy vegetables and to "...remind us Mom's getting better. Then, before we know it, ...Hello pumpkins, goodbye cancer!" And so the Garden is begun. The family plan and plant together as their mother recovers from surgery and begins chemotherapy complete with head-shaving for the hair loss. Mom personally plants the pumpkin seeds. Through the summer they watch the garden grow. By September Mom is in radiation as fuzz grows back on her head. By October, all treatments are over and the pumpkins are ripe. Valiant's sketchy ink and paint illustrations fill the double-page scenes with smiling people busy in activities to make their mother feel as positive as possible. Events in the text are made more specific; Dad prepares the vegetable bed with a forked shovel while Mom makes a map to guide the plantings. What the images may lack in representational accuracy is made up for by the enthusiasm that drives their creativity. This is a fine preparation for understanding and supporting a loved one going through this experience. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Two children nurture a vegetable garden that represents their mother's bout with cancer. For ages kindergarten through third grade, "this is less a story about cancer than about one family's response to it," reads the starred review in School Library Journal (2/11).
School Library Journal
Hello, pumpkins, goodbye cancer!" The family members nurture the garden and one another, and by harvest time their hopes have been fulfilled. Smoothly told in a reassuringly matter-of-fact and understated way, this is less a story about cancer than about one family's response to it. Details about the treatment and the woman's physical reactions to it are worked in unobtrusively. The family and their supportive circle maintain a humorous and positive attitude, from the neighbors who crown Mom queen when they come over to serve her dinner to the uncle who buzz cuts her hair at the head-shaving party. Realistic emotions like her general sadness or Janie's brother's dismay at his mom's baldness are included, but are downplayed. The sketchy illustrations are tender and sweet. After the first "breaking the news" scene, every page depicts grateful smiles and loving camaraderie. Outdoor scenes provide a feeling of fresh air and the healing of nature. An uplifting, hopeful story, well told and beautifully illustrated.—Heidi Estrin, Feldman Children's Library at Congregation B'nai Israel, Boca Raton, FL