It happened again. Specifically, it happened on page 73 of the ARC of a book you published, Season of Secrets by Sally Nicholls (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, pub date Jan 1, 2011, for ages 8 to 12).
You already know what the book's about, Arthur, but give me a minute so I can
Molly's an imaginative girl who would live in a book if she could. One rainy night she runs outside looking for Hannah and sees something incredible: a man being chased by huge dogs and huntsmen on horses. And the lead hunter has horns growing out of his head. The hunters disappear and Molly tries to help the hunted man. He's injured and seems confused.
When Molly runs back to her grandparents' house and babbles about the man, Grandma goes outside with her, but there's nothing there. They all assume she's letting her imagination run wild.
Later, Molly's teacher takes the class to a church to do grave rubbings, and Molly sees a statue that's exactly like the hunted man. Her teacher tells her the legend of the Green Man, linked to the cycle of death and rebirth. Also called the Oak King, he and the Holly King, the man with horns, fight for dominance of the seasons.
Molly befriends the Green Man, but no one else can see him. The grass around him is greener, and saplings and vines spring up, even though it's autumn. He makes a flower grow in his hand. If he can bring things to life, can he bring back Molly's mother?
Arthur, I love the book. Don't get me wrong. I found Sally Nicholls' first book, Ways to Live Forever, touching and beautifully written. This book is too. The atmosphere the author created here reminds me of The Dark is Rising, a modern classic also set in Britain. Could there be some truth to the idea of an Oak King and a Holly King fighting it out every solstice? It's fascinating to think about.
So what's my problem with page 73? Well, to be honest, I'm a little upset. It happened in Tangerine. And now it happened again in Season of Secrets. A character, in this case, Molly's mother, died of an aneurysm. Yes, I know people die of brain aneurysms and abdominal aortic aneurysms all the time. Thousands of them. I know. Louise Fitzhugh (author of Harriet the Spy) died of a ruptured brain aneurysm at the age of 46.
Molly says (and I'm quoting the ARC here, so I hope that's okay) "An aneurysm is...where the wall of one of your blood vessels gets damaged, so blood flows into the wall and makes a balloon, which gets bigger and bigger until it explodes inside you and you die."
But not always! You don't always die!
And I'm living proof. Yes, Arthur, I'm a survivor of a ruptured brain aneurysm. And the simple truth, according to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation, is that only about 40% of people with ruptures die. That's less than half. And with continued research, that statistic should continue to go down.
Is the book still worth buying and reading? Oh yes, of course. See that little label down there that says Gem of the Week? That means I highly recommend the book. It's lovely and luminous. The writing is poetic. The details are perfect. Except for that aneurysm thing.
Next time, Arthur. Next time, you'll know. Right?
Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is brought to you by the letter M and Shannon Whitney Messenger, who started it. Click on over to From the Mixed-up Files to see what she's featuring this week.