- Age Range: 10 and up
- Grade Level: 5 - 6
- Lexile Measure: 0680 (What's this?)
- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers (April 12, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0399173307
- ISBN-13: 978-0399173301
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 78 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #22,385 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Counting Thyme Hardcover – Deckle Edge, April 12, 2016
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From School Library Journal
Gr 4–7—When her five-year-old brother Val begins a clinical trial for cancer treatment at New York's Sloane Kettering Hospital, 11-year-old Thyme and her family leave their beloved San Diego home to move to the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Thyme embraces her role as the helpful middle sister, secretly saving slips of "time"—good behavior chits—so she can go home, all the while trying to avoid adjusting to New York or letting anyone at school know about Val's illness. With just the right pace of character development and a believable voice for the shy, awkward Thyme, Conklin takes her protagonist through a journey of connecting to others and learning to articulate her own needs. A constant but quiet tension runs throughout, both concerning Val's health and Thyme's emotional growth; readers continuously watch Thyme's reactions as other characters—including a cute boy who seems to understand about secrets—reach out to her. Sadness and hope are well balanced, and the family characters and interactions are tense but full of love. Most experienced readers will recognize several overused plot points (e.g., young girl befriends lonely, grumpy, elderly neighbor; immigrant housekeeper lends strength through her cooking) and wonder at this upper middle class white girl's lack of awareness or curiosity about her cultural and socioeconomic place in her new home. VERDICT A slow and sweet book that will strum the heartstrings of readers in much the same ways as Jo Knowles's See You at Harry's (Candlewick, 2012), Wendy Mass's A Mango-Shaped Space (Little, Brown, 2003), or Katherine Hannigan's Ida B: … And Her Plans to Maximize Fun, Avoid Disaster, and (Possibly) Save the World (Scholastic, 2004).—Rhona Campbell, Georgetown Day School, Washington, DC
Praise for Counting Thyme:
A 2016 Nerdy Book Club Award Winner
“Debut author Conklin writes with a pitch-perfect middle-grade voice… A nice choice for middle-grade readers who enjoy heartfelt and emotional novels.”—Booklist
“Thyme’s remarkable perseverance and resilience will inspire readers of Conklin’s compassionate tale.”—Kirkus Reviews
“[A] sweet book that will strum the heartstrings of readers.”—School Library Journal
“Conklin successfully weaves together the shifting dynamics of a loving family under crisis with the less dramatic but equally heartfelt turmoil of coming of age in a new environment.”—Publishers Weekly
“Counting Thyme shows how a serious illness can tear the fabric of a family apart, and love can stitch it back together again. This deeply moving story of family, friendship, and belonging will settle deep in your heart and stay there long after the final page is read.”—Donna Gephart, award-winning author of Death by Toilet Paper and Lily and Dunkin
“Melanie Conklin brings New York vividly to life in Counting Thyme, a gentle story fueled by heart, hope, and beautifully developed characters.”—Pat Schmatz, award-winning author of Bluefish
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Showing 1-4 of 78 reviews
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Eleven-year-old Thyme Owens has just left her beloved home (and grandmother, and best friend) behind in San Diego, and moved to the Big Apple. But her eyes aren’t starry with dreams of Broadway and everything else that New York City has to offer; Thyme is here for a different reason. Her younger brother Val (short for Valerian) has been accepted to be part of a drug trial to treat his neuroblastoma, a nerve cancer.
Thyme doesn’t know how long they’ll be staying in NYC, but she has her eyes set on a quick return. The two things she most wants pull her in opposite directions. Val getting better, and a return home; can she have them both? In a way, she thinks she can. The thing is, Mom’s been giving her little slips of paper for “time” — free passes for a half hour, an hour, etc. — for her to do whatever she wants, a counterbalance for how much of her family’s time is consumed by care for Val. Thyme collects all these slips in a glass jar, hoping beyond hope that she can amass enough “time” to go back to San Diego. To go back home.
Meanwhile, a life in New York city beckons. There’s a new school. New potential friends. A cute boy in class. A crotchety downstairs neighbor with a cockatoo. Ravioli — ahem, Mrs. Ravelli. The school play, The Wizard of Oz, and being in the sound crew with said cute boy.
Is Thyme just biding her time? Or could she possibly find a new life here in New York City?
I boarded my cross-country flight this morning with one goal. I was going to read Counting Thyme on this flight and it was going to help me pass the time! Oh, did it. As I sniffled my way through the flight — eventually I had to ask a flight attendant for some napkins to use in lieu of tissues — I became so deeply concerned with Thyme’s family, especially Thyme and Val. My heart ached for Thyme as she so often put herself second in caring for her little brother. Conklin does an amazing job of authentically portraying Thyme’s whole world, from her NYC apartment building life to the middle school experience to her sometimes fraught relationship with her older sister Cori (short for Coriander). This family felt so real for me, which of course is what led to the sniffling.
Thyme is self-deprecating and funny, sometimes brave, sometime shy and awkward, but full of love and hope and fear. The fear of losing Val, of Val ending up in the hospital, of his body resisting the trial — all of that is always there, always simmering beneath the surface. Though Thyme keeps her real reason for being in NYC a secret from her peers at school, she can never keep the truth far from her own mind. This book imparted on me such a strong sense of the impact a child’s cancer can have on every member of the family, and of the varying personal reactions to this experience.
Highly, highly recommended!
Thyme Owens will do anything to help her brother even if it means moving cross country. Yet, being the new kid & dealing with a sick family member is never easy. Thyme is sure to hook readers with her authentic voice. Can't wait to share this novel with my 5th grade readers during our character study & for Mock Newbery. Readers that loved Rules by Cynthia Lord will make so many connections to this novel!
After book talking this novel to my fifth graders, I had to order two more copies! The students can't put this story down! As middle grade teacher its often hard to fine great new novels that tackle tough situations but are age appropriate. This novel is perfect for any middle grade reader. Don't hesitate, add Counting Thyme to your cart and you won't be disappointed!
"Mrs. Ravelli showed me how to roll gnocchi. Little dough balls that were actually pasta. Each one had its own funny shape. Not one of them was perfect. What mattered, she said, was that they were just right on the inside."
"In Italy, we have a saying: Old birds are not caught with new nets."
"If Sara went to heaven, I want to say good-bye." I swallowed hard, and told myself I did not want to cry. "Well, in that case, all you have to do is shut your eyes. Then she would hear anything you said."
But sometimes, people change. Or I guess the way you see them changes, and suddenly, they are someone else completely.
As someone who has kids this age, I get how she reacts to all that pulls her heart in different directions, and appreciate how her story unfolds. This book is full of the kind of characters who slip into your life during that time, who leave their marks as you figure out who you are. Love and hope are always present, making even the messier moments easier for a young reader to swallow. I was thrilled to pass this one on to my kids the moment I finished it, and think you will be, too.