COUNTING THYME for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

My original plan for June and July was to stay clear of sad themed books, but great writing in this new one pulled me in for the long haul. thymeThe story is told through the eyes of sixth grader, Thyme. She’s not happy for several reasons. First and foremost her little brother is sick. Second, the family has moved to New York City for a drug trial to hopefully make him better. That leaves her grandma, best friend, and everything she loves back in San Diego.

The challenges and disruption of childhood cancer for a family is brought forth in a unique way. The bond between sister and brother, friendships both old and new, and a jar full of paper slips.

The back and forth turmoil and decision making by Thyme was spot on for a girl this age. The story is a happy-sad explosion of feelings and one where you are eventually glad you spent the “thyme.”

There’s a tinge of hope, and I’d enjoy a sequel.


FULL PLOT (From Melanie Conklin’s Web Site)  When eleven-year-old Thyme Owen’s little brother, Val, is accepted into a new cancer drug trial, it’s just the second chance that he needs. But it also means the Owens family has to move to New York, thousands of miles away from Thyme’s best friend and everything she knows and loves. The island of Manhattan doesn’t exactly inspire new beginnings, but Thyme tries to embrace the change for what it is: temporary.

After Val’s treatment shows real promise and Mr. Owens accepts a full-time position in the city, Thyme has to face the frightening possibility that the move to New York is permanent. Thyme loves her brother, and knows the trial could save his life—she’d give anything for him to be well—but she still wants to go home, although the guilt of not wanting to stay is agonizing. She finds herself even more mixed up when her heart feels the tug of new friends, a first crush and even a crotchety neighbor and his sweet whistling bird. All Thyme can do is count the minutes, the hours and the days, and hope time can bring both a miracle for Val and a way back home.


  1. New York City comes to life and living there is a unique experience of high rise apartments, subways, and taxi rides. You’ll know this great city much more after reading the story.
  2. The touching relationship between Thyme and her little brother, Val. They need each other to make it through this terrible time in their lives.
  3. Moving is tough and the emotions it brings out are expertly portrayed here. Old and new friends bring confusion and Thyme chooses to solve this conflict on her own.
  4. The supporting cast of adult and younger characters. The grumpy neighbor with a past he hides, the supportive housekeeper who becomes a friend to Thyme, and Jake the boy that seems to understand. The subplot as they both work sound effects for a school play fits in nicely.
  5. The parents desperate efforts to help Val get well often leads to their two older girls feeling left out. It’s a a family struggling with change and there’s no parent manual that describes the steps. In the end I’d be honored to know this family.


I had to admit I liked Mrs. Harris, my fourth-period math teacher. She wore the strangest clothes–vest with embroidered cats, and bright plaid pants. Dad would have called her outfits unique. Cori would have called them hideous. But Mrs. Harris called people up to the board like a game-show host, and that made me smile in spite of myself.

AUTHOR QUOTE (From Melanie’s web site):  I really hope that my words mean something to you. I love books so much that sometimes I can’t stop thinking about them for days. I’d like to make that happen for someone. That’s my dream.


Make a comment below if you have time. I enjoy reading all of them.

Check the links to other Middle Grade novels over at Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.


About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...writing middle grade novels.
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13 Responses to COUNTING THYME for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

  1. Glad you liked this so much. The New York setting and the dealing with the issues of her sick brother really appeal to me. I’ll have to check it out when I’m in the mood for a little sadder story.

  2. cleemckenzie says:

    This would be a wonderful book for siblings with sick brothers or sisters. I’m steering clear of the sad stories for a while, but I will keep this one in mind when I’m ready to enter another one. Thanks,

  3. Get Click Here to Start from Netgalley. A great uncle dies, but it was a great mystery. This was too sad and too slow for my taste. See? No one wants sad stories, not even adults!

  4. warrchick says:

    I’m pretty sure this one made its way on my list before, but I’d forgotten why I wanted to read it. Now I’m thinking there’s got to be room closer to the top of the list…but also wondering when I’ll be able to handle all the emotion. However, good books are worth waiting for so I’ll make it room! Thanks for persuading me to that end. 🙂

  5. Well, I can see I need to lengthen my TBR list. This one sounds like a must read. Thanks for the very thorough review.

  6. Sounds heart wrenching. I love good writing and characterization though, so I may just have to pick this one up. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  7. jennienzor says:

    I tend to stay clear of books with cancer themes or at least I have to be in the right mood. But the other aspects you’ve mentioned and the character’s name (so clever) are really intriguing. Thanks for a thoughtful review.

  8. Andrea Mack says:

    Still haven’t read this one yet, though I hope to get it soon. I actually got tired of reading “cancer story” books for a while, too.

  9. Melanie is just fabulous, and so is this book! Thrilled for her and that you highlighted her.

  10. What an amazingly kind and thoughtful review. I sincerely appreciate the time you spent on this fabulous post! WOW! ❤ ❤ ❤

  11. This is such a thoughtful review for a great book. Enjoyed reading both!

  12. Thank you for such a wonderful review of a great book. Yes it has a sad theme, but having a story like this is important for all kids. For those who have never encountered similar problems to Thyme this book is a window to help them see what others might be going through and help them develop empathy. For those who are, or have been, in a similar situation they can draw hope from Thyme’s journey and the way she deals with her problems. This is an important book for any middle-school library.

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