First off, let me say that I would be a lot happier if nobody ready this book. I certainly hope that my kids never have to read this book and that I will never ever have to recommend it to anybody that I know.
"The Year My Mother Was Bald" is written for children ages 8-13 who find themselves in the position of dealing with a parent dealing with cancer. Ann Speltz based this book on the experiences of her own family during the year that she was treated for cancer. What she and her daughter, Amelia, went through is turned into this heart-warming volume from Magination Press, with illustrations by Kate Sternberg, who also endured a year when her mother was bald. Here the story is told by Clare, who keeps a journal about the year her mother undergoes treatment for cancer.
"The Year My Mother Was Bald" is divided into twelve chapters, one for each month, beginning in June (which means the cycle ends in the spring). Clare is looking forward to summer, making a list of her favorite summer things to do, when her mother comes back from her annual physical with the news that she might have a tumor in her breast. In addition to Clare's journal entries, there are articles that have been clipped from other sources explaining things like what happens "When Cells Go Wild" and "Radiation." Accompanying Clare's thoughts and this information are drawings, photographs, and resources that will help youngesters understand what is happening, the same way they helped Claire.
Not only does "The Year My Mother Was Bald" offer answers to the obvious questions that will occupy the minds of kids in this situation ("Will my mom be all right?" "Who will take care of me if she doesn't get better?") but also gives kids some pro-active things they can do to not only help them deal with their concerns and fears, but also to help with the recovery process for their mother. However, the primary focus is on helping kids deal with all aspects of this process, which is why perhaps the most poignant moment in the book is when Claire decides what to do with the box underneath her bed that has the hair that her mother has lost.
The back of this book provides resources that kids will find useful for finding additional information about dealing with cancer in free booklets, organizations and online sites, and other books. More importantly, Speltz reassures kids that there are no right or wrong feelings and their feelings are not only important, but also helpful. She also reminds her readers that scientists keep making new discoveries about cancer and coming up with new methods of fighting cancer all the time.
The only concern anyone could have about the helpfulness of this book would be the gender differences between Clare and her mother and the reader and their parent. "The Year My Mother Was Bald" speaks more to a situation where the mother has been diagnosed (fathers can always claim they are trying to look like Michael Jordan or Yul Brynner), but even young boys should be able to relate to Clare's situation and take comfort from this excellent book as well.