Review of "Brushing Mom's Hair"

By Andrea Cheng
Wordsong, 2009
Review by Amy Ridley on Sep 21st 2010
Brushing Mom's Hair

Ann’s mother has been diagnosed with breast cancer and she is very worried about her. She is nervous to tell her friends after she overhears them talking about someone else’s mother having her breast removed. She finds herself able to tell strangers but not her friends. People think they’re being nice when they say that they know someone who went through the same thing but they usually make her end up feeling worse when they realize the person they knew may not have made it.

Ann just wants to dance when she’s in ballet class but she finds her mind wandering to her mother. She wants to be able to help her mom the way her sister does. Ann decides to track her mother’s water intake since the doctor said she needed to stay hydrated. It doesn’t make her feel like she is really helping the way her sister is. She misses her brother who is away at school and feels even lonelier when he calls to talk to her. All of the family’s activities are marked by her mother’s treatments which makes it difficult for Ann to ever forget about the cancer.

The author has told Ann’s story using verse which made it even more unique. She gets right to the point with the sparse wording and is able to hit precisely on what Ann is feeling without a lot of filler. While there are lots of things changing in Ann’s life, the simplest thing is that Ann’s mother is sick and Ann is very scared. The writing style allows this to be the focal point of the story. Cheng is able to tell Ann’s story beautifully by giving the reader glimpses into Ann’s family and how they are all coping with her mom’s illness.

A scene as simple as her sister going into the bathroom to assist their mother shows a pang of jealousy in Ann. It’s a situation that plays out with siblings everyday where a younger sibling is jealous because their older sibling gets to do something that they don’t. In this case even though it’s helping her mother with the tubes in her chest, Ann still feels left out.

After finishing her biology homework Ann is left to wonder if she’s going to get the cancer gene or if it will be her sister. A traditional novel may have the character sitting through class while a teacher drones on about genetics and have her worrying about her chances of getting cancer. What makes this book truly unique is that Cheng says just as much in what would be the equivalent of a paragraph in the traditional novel.

This book proves that sometimes less is more.

This is appropriate for ages twelve and up. 


© 2010 Amy Ridley



Amy Ridley received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Boston University


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