Upside Down and Backwards

Childhood Cancer Awareness Month – September 2014

Upside Down9781433816383_p0_v1_s260x420Upside Down and Backwards: A Sibling’s Journey Through Childhood Cancer

Julie Greves, Katy Tenhulzen, and Fred Wilkinson, Authors

Magination Press, Fiction, May 12, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 8-13

Themes: Cancer, Siblings, Family Relationships, Feelings,

Book Summary: Ever since his first ride, Bryce has been obsessed with roller coasters. The hiss of the ride starting, the anticipation, the slow climb up the first steep hill, the pause just before the car careens over the steep drop. But when Bryce’s sister Paige is diagnosed with cancer, his life become one of the craziest roller coasters he would ever ride. His parents are suddenly distracted and stressed. It seems like Paige always gets her way. Brice has trouble keeping up with school. He misses out on time with his friends. And he worries about Paige. Will his family ever get back to normal?

Why I like this book:  The roller coaster is the perfect metaphor for a sibling’s journey through childhood cancer. It is written in a matter-of-fact and understandable way. The story is vivid, realistic, upbeat and honest. It focuses on real-life issues for siblings and family members. I especially like that the book emphasizes recovery rather than dealing with a loss. Bryce narrates the story and the authors did an excellent job of exposing the confusing emotions of his character. Bryce’s world is turned upside down and backwards because his sister is diagnosed with cancer. He feels like he’s also riding the “cancer coaster.” There are midnight trips to the emergency room with Paige, but no one bothers to tell him. He feels forgotten when his parents don’t pick him up after school or don’t make a baseball game where he hits his first home run. Yet he cares about his sister and shaves his head when she loses her hair to chemo treatments. A sibling support group become a refuge because the other kids actually get what his life if like. The authors really got this story right and I highly recommend it for siblings of cancer patients and their parents.

Resources: There is a very helpful six-page guide at the back of the book with suggestions for siblings on how to take care of themselves, stay connected, talk to friends, discuss their feelings, deal with guilt, seek out a support group, and face  the future.

About the Authors: The authors share a passion for supporting patients and their families throughout the entire cancer journey in their work at Seattle Children’s Hospital. This passion  motivated them to write a book and create resources for siblings.

Julie Greves, CCLS,  is a certified child life specialist, where she has spent over 10 years working with pediatric oncology patients. Katy Tenhulzen, CCLS, is a certified child life specialist who has had the opportunity to support pediatric hematology and oncology patients and families since 2002.  Fred Wilkinson, LICSW, has been an oncology social worker focusing on psychological trauma since 2001.

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

16 thoughts on “Upside Down and Backwards

  1. I can’t imagine what it is like for any family, let alone a sibling, to have to go through and experience cancer. This book sounds like a wonderful resource. Thanks for reviewing, Pat.


    • I’m glad you enjoyed UPSIDE DOWN AND BACKWARDS. The book was written in first person, with young Bryce telling the story. He’s a strong character notafraid to express himself, yet sensitive to his sister’s needs. I can imagine that you would be a great help to children, Rhythm.


  2. What a great title and love the metaphor of the roller coster. Thanks for the great review, Pat, this sounds like a great middle grade read for any kid, to learn about different needs in a family during time’s of crisis of one of its members.


    • You’re right, this is an important book for any kid, because they may have encounter a friend, classmate or family member. I especially enlarged the book cover so readers could see the roller coaster reflected in Bryce’s sun glasses. The book is only 103 pages. The authors did an exceptional job.


  3. I don’t like thinking about a child having “C”. I can see that this would be a very valuable resource for a sibling dealing with the disease. Super review, Patricia!


    • None of us do. But, there are so many children with childhood cancer and it’s nice to find a book that reads like realistic fiction and is healing for families. I love the metaphor of the roller coaster. You can see the coaster in Bryce’s glasses on the cover.


  4. This sounds really well done. I think that this sounds like a book every family with someone with cancer should read. I just read a book called Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick that is told from the POV of the brother of a boy with cancer and the sequel to the book (After Ever After) told from the POV of the kid with cancer after he is in remission (about 8 years after Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie, so that the MCs could both be in 8th Grade). They were both very powerful books.


    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I’m glad you feel this is a good book for families who have a child with cancer. And, thank you for mentioning the two books you read. I do hope you review them if they are that powerful. I should check them out.


  5. Thanks so much for introducing this important book to us. Magination Press is the imprint for the Pschological Association so no wonder they are the ones to publish a book as far reaching as this. For the talented authors who in addition to holding degrees in child everything also learned how to write a book that appeals to kids is amazing. This is another book I want to read and will see if it is available from my library.

    However I imagine it is available in cancer wards and chemo floors. And children’s cancer wings. Anyway I hope so. It seems miraculous.


    • Thank you Clar. Glad you enjoyed the book. I love Magination Press and know it is the imprint for the APA. They always have great activities for teachers and parents at the end of the books. It’s hard to find books about childhood cancer that offer hope and are so uplifting for your readers. It would be nice if the book was available at children’s cancer hospitals etc.


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