Okay, I admit it. I picked this book off the shelf because it had a pretty cover. Interesting to see it next to it's British counterpart -- different title (which you understand when you read the book) and very different feel to the cover. What do you think?
The book takes place during one month of twelve year old Mira's life. And how much can happen in just a month! Mira's beloved grandmother Josie is dying of cancer, and doing her best to make a peaceful exit. Death is a subject we all face, a real part of life, but is seldom given such open treatment in American literature for children. Letting go is hard, remembering is both joyous and painful, and all of these differing, mixed emotions are experienced through Mira's eyes. At the same time, Mira is changing too: getting her period, finding her own voice in school, having a crush on a boy (who also likes her!), negotiating friendships. Mira has a younger brother and baby sister, loving but a but busy parents who also have lives and worries of their own. There is no huge crisis or conflict -- the drama of everyday life is what drives the story. Mira's voice is young and fresh and honest.
There is also a definite sense of place. The family takes Josie to her seaside cottage in Suffolk for a last visit. And Mira and her father visit the Tate Modern and stroll along the Embankment in London.
"Looking at the buildings on the Thames, what I notice for the first time is that they all fit in. Even buildings like the Gherkin fit exactly into the space. Buildings can do that. They can be one great big family where all the generations are alive at the same time, as long as they're looked after properly. The great-great-grandparents like Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament or St. Paul's Cathedral living side by side with their distant relatives,the Wibbly-Wobbly Bridge, the Gherkin, the Millennium Wheel. Instead of some of them dying off before the next generation's born, they just live here getting to be a bigger and bigger family. I wish humans could do that." (p. 123)