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?

by Andrea Cheng (Author), Nicole Wong (Illustrator)

Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 – 18 years
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Hardcover: 64 pages
  • Publisher: Wordsong; 1 edition (September 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590785991
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590785997
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.4 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces


Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 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


“Worthy and moving.” —Kirkus Reviews

“A great choice for poetry classes, as well as for bereavement counseling.” —Booklist

“It is reassuring in the gentle way it normalizes a teen’s experiences and emotions as [Ann’s] family copes with major illness.” —School Library Journal

About the Author

Andrea Cheng teaches English as a second language in Cincinnati. She is the daughter of Hungarian Jewish immigrants and grew up among extended family members, many of whom survived the Holocaust. Her family spoke mostly Hungarian at home. Her novels include The Bear Makers, The Lace Dowry, and Eclipse.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.