In COUNTING THYME, Melanie Conklin’s middle grade debut, eleven-year-old Thyme Owens is uprooted from her San Diego home and moved to New York City so her younger brother, Val, can undergo experimental cancer treatment. Thyme is determined to return home by March so she and her best friend can celebrate their birthdays together. Challenges at her new school and having to share a room with her emotionally volatile older sister further spur on Thyme’s desire to return home. Thyme uses her parents’ time reward system—a half hour for doing the dishes, an hour for helping with laundry—to save up enough days to visit her best friend. With each passing day, however, Thyme is making friends and mediating drama in New York, and she feels herself drifting further away from her previous life. These changes heighten Thyme’s desperation to return home. Anger and fear set in as Thyme begins to suspect that returning to San Diego may not be part of her parents’ plan after all. Throughout the story, Conklin tenderly and skillfully navigates the conflicting emotions Thyme experiences as she struggles between the resentment she feels about moving and her fear of losing her brother to his devastating disease.
COUNTING THYME is a contemporary middle grade novel for children ages 10 and up. This beautifully written story is engaging and heartfelt. A must read!
With humor and sensitivity, Conklin delves into the complexity of dealing with what Thyme wants (to go home) versus what she has (a brother with cancer). Written in first person, COUNTING THYME does not shy away from the emotional struggles of having a family member battling a serious illness. Conklin illuminates the importance of selflessness and sacrifice without being preachy or heavy-handed.
For more information on Melanie Conklin’s work, visit her website at www.melanieconklin.com.