The Goodbye Cancer Garden, written by Janna Matthies
and illustrated by Kristi Valiant, is a beautiful and sensitively
written book that is perfect for families who are facing a serious
illness. Children, especially, will benefit from this sweet story
of a mother's bout with breast cancer and how her husband and children
deal with the uncertainty and fear of the unknown.
At the beginning of the story, Mom and Dad tell Janie and Jeffrey
that Mom has cancer.
The children are allowed to go with their parents to a doctor's
visit and ask questions. The doctor tells them that they will work
very hard to help Mom get better, hopefully by pumpkin time. With
this "seed" of information, Janie comes up with a wonderful idea.
The family will plan and plant a garden to help keep track of Mom's
progress. Watching it grow and eating the healthy vegetables will
help remind them that she is getting better. And before they know
it . . . "Hello, pumpkins, goodbye cancer!" Of course,
Mom loves the idea of a "Goodbye Cancer Garden."
The book chronicles the progression of both the garden and Mom's
treatments. Janie, Jeffrey, Mom, and Dad decide on cucumbers, tomatoes,
carrots, green beans, lettuce, potatoes, peppers, and, of course,
pumpkins for the garden. And in the meantime, Mom must go through
chemotherapy and radiation. However, through it all she keeps a
great attitude, reassures her children, and takes an interest in
creating the garden.
When Mom faces the prospect of losing her hair due to chemo, the
family has a head-shaving party. And when it's time to plant the
pumpkins, Mom personally plants the seeds. When treatments are
over, the family hosts a picnic and invites everyone who has helped
them. They serve many of the vegetables they have grown in the
Goodbye Cancer Garden. Moreover, when it's time to harvest the
pumpkins, it's a time to celebrate with pumpkin bread, roasted
pumpkin seeds and the fact that Mom is indeed feeling better. Additionally,
they save some of the pumpkin seeds to plant the following year;
a symbolic reminder, perhaps?
The author, Janna Matthies, wrote this book during her own breast
cancer journey, and her family really did chart her progress with
a Goodbye Cancer Garden. Her story is one of courage and hope,
and I found it to be a wonderful testimony to a family's unity
and desire to rally together at a difficult time. The book is a
great resource to introduce children to, and possibly help them
understand more about, a serious and unsettling topic. Beautifully
written! Additionally, the illustrations by Kristi Valiant are
vibrant and realistic and add much to the story. Highly recommended!