AGE: 12 up
Few children's books about death in the family match the sensitivity of this story. In a quiet moving voice, 11-year-old Shiri tells how her small family is torn by her mother's mysterious illness (which seems to be cancer). When her mother is taken from the kibbutz to a hospital in Jerusalem, Shiri is overwhelmed by loneliness and worry. She decides to put on a play.
She organizes a group of younger children, directs rehearsals, organizes the choreography and makes the sets and costumes. As her mother's health worsens, she focuses on the play – aptly called "The Princess and the Wonder Cure." In it, a knight cures the princess's sadness by bringing her a magic potion in a flask. The flask is mother's little perfume bottle, which comes to symbolize Shiri's longing for her mother.
The play is a success, but Shiri's mother dies. Shiri suffers severe emotional trauma and her recovery is slow. Her connection with the younger children unravels and she is angry with her father for keeping her away during the illness. In the end, however, Shiri begins to view the future hopefully.
Illustrations: Avner Katz