Lady Sunflower: stories, songs, and poems from the desk of kill.gertrude

Flowerpot Pr. Mar. 2024. 172p. pap. $15.99. ISBN 9781486729869.
Gr 9 Up–A young adult shares her experience as a teenager undergoing cancer treatment. This memoir, told in poems, doodles, line drawings, journaling, essays, speeches, and playlists, is essentially positive, an expression of love and optimism. Using art and journaling as therapy enabled Shuck-Sparer to explore the battle between hope and fear, and to ask the unanswerable question, “Why?” Not “Why me?” but why does anyone, especially a child, have to suffer from cancer? Shuck-Sparer refers to her brain tumor by name, Gertrude, and writes about her struggles with her named enemy. Although the unfairness of cancer is addressed, as well as the feeling of being broken (losing her hair, eyelashes, and brows) and left behind as her peers move forward from the teen years into adulthood, she uses imagery and lyrics evocative of nature, summer, and sunflowers as transformative, contemplative expressions. The music, cultural references, and artistic style are both broad and deep, illustrating the author’s interests. Shuck-Sparer wanted to help others navigate the often perplexing world of healthcare, and her own experiences as a cancer patient motivated her to pursue an education in healthcare and public policy. In her college application essay, she stated, “Getting through cancer was hard, but living after it was even harder.” Sadly, the author died in March 2024, a few weeks after the publication of this book.
VERDICT Recommended for high school libraries as a memoir that may offer words of encouragement to those ailing, grieving, or seeking inspiration.

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