Dandelion Clocks

(81 reviews with an average rating of 4 out of 5)

Publisher: Puffin Books

In her eyes, 11 year-old Olivia's family is a bit of a nightmare. Her mother hasn't a clue what it's like to be young, her dad always takes her mum's side and her older brother (who has Asperger's Syndrome) struggles to cope when any of the family's agreed rules are broken which can result in embarrassing outbursts in public places.

Of course in fact it's a family which is as normal (or just as diverse) as the next, and her day-to-day worries are essentially no different from any other schoolgirl's. However, Liv is too immersed in her own perceptions, interests, friendships and crushes to realise it.

Then things start to shift. Liv's mother is sick. It soon becomes painfully clear to the reader that she is terminally ill and deteriorating fast. The book details the unthinkably difficult months leading up to her death and those which follow, all recounted by Liv herself.

The result is (unsurprisingly) a very heart-rending read, as Liv goes through various stages of denial, anger and grief. More unexpected is the clever way in which Westcott Smith succeeds in weaving substantial humour and optimism into the book. An effective parallel emerges between Liv's life and the experiences of her mother at the same age, reported through the diaries she passes on to her daughter. It is her journal, combined with Liv's passion for photography and the support of her father, brother and best friend, which will provide her with crucial solace and a sense of hope for the future.

Powerful, memorable and accessible, the book also boasts a very positive depiction of a character with Asperger's Syndrome which reminds us that the autistic spectrum is indeed just that - a spectrum - and those on it may share similar characteristics but should not be pigeon-holed.

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