“Artichoke Hearts” by Sita Brahmachari

Date finished: 31st May 2012

Artichoke Hearts has been on my radar since it won the Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize last year. It takes the form of a journal following one month in twelve-year-old Mira’s life. Her beloved Nana Josie is ill and her health is deteriorating. For her birthday, Nana Josie gives Mira an artichoke charm, and explains how it symbolises the heart and how as we grow older we grow hardened layers around our hearts to prevent us from getting hurt. The books shows how Mira and her family deal with Josie’s last days, while trying to keep a balance with Mira’s everyday life of growing up.

This book is wonderful. I’m welling up just thinking about it again now, and it will stay with me for a long time. I was fortunate in that I didn’t have to deal with the grief of losing anyone until I was in my thirties, and I can only imagine how difficult it is for a teenager, as well as for a parent who has to explain death to a child. This book does that with humour, warmth, honesty and emotion, and is very, very touching. The idea of using a journal which covers the most important month of Mira’s life to date works so well, and allows enough time to develop the characters and the experience, while giving a sense of closure at the end with the promise of the next stage of Mira’s life to come as well.

A whole-hearted recommendation for teenagers and adults alike, and one I won’t forget easily.

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