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Ways To Live Forever Paperback – January 1, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 4–7—Eleven-year-old Sam knows that he is dying from leukemia. He has decided to write a book that includes his thoughts on the matter as well as his lists and his questions, particularly those that no one ever answers like, "Why does God let kids get ill?" Through his writing, Nicholls has drawn a portrait of a family coping with a child's terminal disease. Readers meet Sam's mother, father, and younger sister, each of whom is dealing in a different way with his illness. Well researched and beautifully written, the book is equal to the best of children's literature about death and dying, Katherine Paterson's Bridge to Terabithia (HarperCollins, 1977) and Deborah Wiles's Each Little Bird That Sings (Harcourt, 2005). Sam knows that his father rushes off to work each day because he cannot admit to himself that his son is dying. He knows that his mother keeps Ella home from school during an unexpected snowstorm in March so they can have one last sledding day together. But, he does not verbalize this knowledge, just as his parents and Ella don't speak of his death. Sam is a child whom readers would want as a friend and he will be missed when the book is done.—Wendy Smith-D'Arezzo, Loyola College, Baltimore, MD
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

“My name is Sam. I am eleven years old. I collect stories and fantastic facts. I have leukemia. By the time you read this I will probably be dead.” So begins a frank, guileless, unflinching first-person account of the last days of a young boy’s life. Sam is writing a book of his experiences, and in a raw, keen voice, he confronts both the uncertainties and certainties of his illness, laying bare its physical and emotional toll. Nicholls balances passages of heavy despair with moments of inspirational bravery, and Sam’s unapologetically sentimental narrative is always honest and never cloying. At the outset, he makes a list of things he wants to do, and that list becomes a map that helps guide his family and friends in their shared journey toward Sam’s unwelcome, unavoidable destination. The story ends as promised, but Nicholls invests the final moments with appropriate grace, reminding the reader of Sam’s courage, frailty, and resilient humanity. Grades 3-7. --Thom Barthelmess --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks; Reprint edition (January 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0545069491
  • ISBN-13: 978-0545069496
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 5.3 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #407,069 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I was born in Stockton-on-Tees in England, just after midnight, in a thunderstorm. My father died when I was two, and my brother Ian and I were brought up my mother. I always wanted to write - when people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I used to say "I'm going to be a writer" - very definite.

I've always loved reading, and I spent most of my childhood trying to make real life as much like a book as possible. My friends and I had a secret club like the Secret Seven, and when I was nine I got most of my hair cut off because I wanted to look like George in the Famous Five. I was a real tomboy - I liked riding my bike, climbing trees and building dens in our garden. And I liked making up stories. I used to wander round my school playground at break, making up stories in my head.

I went to two secondary schools - a little Quaker school in North Yorkshire (where it was so cold that thick woolly jumpers were part of the school uniform) and a big comprehensive. I was very lonely at the little school, but I made friends at the comprehensive and got on all right. I didn't like being a teenager very much, though.

After school, I got to be an adult, which was fantastic. I went and worked in a Red Cross Hospital in Japan and then travelled around Australia and New Zealand. I jumped off bridges and tall buildings, climbed Mount Doom, wore a kimono and went to see a ballet in the Sydney Opera House. Then I came back and did a degree in Philosophy and Literature at Warwick. In my third year, realising with some panic that I was now supposed to earn a living, I enrolled in a masters in Writing for Young People at Bath Spa. It was here that I wrote Ways to Live Forever. I also won the prize for the writer with most potential, through which I got my agent. Four months later, I had a publisher.

I now live in a little flat in Oxford, England, writing stories, and trying to believe my luck.

Follow me on Facebook at:!/pages/Sally-Nicholls-Writer/373654539008
Visit my website at:

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Milan R. on September 8, 2008
Format: Hardcover
How lovely novel this is. Normally I don't read novel for young adults but I did liked this one very much indeed. The language is simply but absolutely beautiful; portraits as well; it's really impossible not to love Felix and entire Sam's family (and of course Sam). From the very beginning you are stunned by horrifying circumstance characters of the novel are facing with and feel gratefulness cause you're not from that story. Then you realize that there are numerous people in precisely the same situation and from that moment you're not looking on this novel as a work of fiction. You're starting to feel their pain and respect their courage. You're seeing real children and their loved ones under those pages ...
Eventually you're absolutely emotionally attached with them so don't be surprise if your eyes start watering (be surprise if they don't!).
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Mary Kay Starnes on September 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I read (mostly skim)young adult books mainly to make sure they are suitable for my children, but I found myself reading every word of this book. Having had cancer myself 9 years ago, there are questions that you ask about your own mortality. I can't imagine being 11 and faced with the fact that you are dying. Sally Nichols brings Sam to life, and you feel as if you are reading his actual journal, not reading a fictional book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Not Miss Havisham on October 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The summing up statement at the beginning of this story introduces this multimodal reader effectively "This is my is a collection of lists, stories, pictures, questions and facts. It is also my story".
Sam is 11 years old and has leukaemia. He is also a fun-loving, intelligent boy with a zest for trying to cram a list of experiences into the short time that is left before he dies.
This story folllows him in his fulfillment of his list of things he wants to do, in such a funny and unsentimental way, that I couldn't decide whether to laugh or cry on many of the pages (of course, I was already sniffling by the time I had gotten to page 2, anyone who knows me, knows I am a complete wimp). The power lies in the fact that Sam is unsentimental, not much mush, even though the actual events and stories are emotionally highly charged. His pleasure and awareness of everyday small things that most people take for granted is evident throughout, for example in the thrill of sunshine, snow or a simple thing like seeing a clear sky during a powercut.
In terms of genuine quality this was a winner. Stories that seem completely real and genuine are a bit of a rarity, but this was one I had trouble with, I just found it difficult to believe someone had written this and dreamed it up (I had a similar experience with 'Life of Pi'). Having said that, there are probably plenty of 'Sams' out there, who feel this is their story. I'm making everyone old enough in the house read this one. A big thumbs up for the author- did I mention it's the winner of the Waterstone's Children's Book Prize 2008? What a super read!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By KidsReads on June 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Sam McQueen has lived 11 years, and so far it's been a grueling journey. Diagnosed with leukemia at age six, he has been in and out of hospitals, dealing with endless nosebleeds, always feeling tired, and surviving the torturous bouts of chemotherapy. The doctors thought they had beaten the cancer, but it always comes back. This time, they suspect the worst and give Sam about a year to live.

Not all of Sam's life has been horrid. He has two awesome parents and a younger sister named Ella who love him very much. And then there's Felix, who he met at the hospital. Felix also has cancer, but it's a different kind. Although Felix is two years older than Sam, they became best friends almost immediately. The two of them together spell "trouble" and present a big challenge to the nurses, like the time they snuck around the hospital corridors playing spy games.

Sam and Felix have school together three days a week at Sam's house. Their teacher, Mrs. Willis, usually makes it fun and doesn't push them to do boring stuff. In fact, she gave Sam the idea to start his very own book, in which he will talk about his life and coping with cancer. Included will be all of the lists that he and Felix make: his favorite things, what he looks like, what to do when someone dies, ways to live forever, and questions that nobody will answer. He also has a list of goals to accomplish, such as seeing a ghost, flying in a blimp, kissing a girl, and going up the down escalator. He never really expects to perform these activities, but with the encouragement of Felix, he starts crossing things off his list.

Eventually, both Sam and Felix's health begins to fade. Sam knows they don't have long to live, and the idea of death is never far from his mind.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By TeensReadToo on June 14, 2011
Format: Paperback
A big thank you to one of my 8th-grade students for bringing this book to my attention - she told me it was excellent, and I do agree.

WAYS TO LIVE FOREVER tells the story of the last four months in the life of eleven-year-old Sam McQueen. Sam was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of six. He successfully battled the disease twice, but this third bout will be his last. Now at home and taking drugs, not to cure the disease, but only to gain him some extra time, he decides to write his story.

With the help of Felix, another terminally ill young boy, Sam puts his thoughts and feelings on paper. He details his daily activities, his frustrations with his illness, and the many unanswered questions he has about the end. He makes a list of what he would like to do before he dies, including things like "be a teenager," "ride in an airship," and "go up down-escalators and down up-escalators."

Sam's straight-forward approach to his situation and those connected with his life provide an emotional yet inspiring story. There are humorous moments and heart-wrenching times as Sam lives his remaining days with both amazing curiosity and humble dignity. It is a powerful story I'm glad I didn't miss.

Reviewed by: Sally Kruger, aka "Readingjunky"
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