Artichoke Hearts – Sita Brahmachari

Published
07/01/2011

Publisher
Macmillan Children’s Books

ISBN
9780330517911

Winner of Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize 2011,  Artichoke Hearts is a very impressive debut novel.  It’s a coming of age novel with an array of big themes including  first love, bereavement, family relationships, friendship and bullying.

Our narrator, twelve year old Mira Levenson, takes us through a month in her life via a diary project for her creative writing class at school – a month in which she has her first period, her first love in the shape of Jide Jackson, her first bereavement as her beloved Nana Josie enters a hospice for her final days.  Mira lacks confidence and finds it difficult to make herself heard amid the chaos of her family life and the hierarchy imposed by her more extroverted classmates.

I loved the relationship between Mira and Nana Josie, who still dresses in a hippy style as it suits her and who has spent a lifetime protesting against injustice.  Josie is so full of life, even as her days draw to an end, painting her own coffin in bright colours in preparation for her funeral.  The whole concept of bereavement and loss is handled very sensitively, yes there is sadness but it’s offset by Josie’s positivity the ripples of which affect all her loved ones.

“Aren’t you frightened for her?” asks Jide.

Frightened?  I think it’s a strange question.  It has never crossed my mind to be frightened of Nana dying.

“No, I’m not.  I think it’s because she’s not frightened and she’s got everyone around her who loves her.”

 

Also the growing relationship between Jide and Mira is presented beautifully – you can almost hear Mira’s shrieks of delight when Jide sends her a text ending with an “x”.  He has experienced loss too as he was orphaned in the Rwandan Civil War and eventually opens up to Mira about his feelings about the past, his identity and anxieties about the future.

Artichoke Hearts is an ideal read for 11+ girls and indeed, older girls like me,  tackling serious themes in a grounded way without ever feeling preachy or pompous and having the added bonus of being very well written.   Sita Brahmachari has certainly made her mark in children’s fiction and I look forward to reading her next book.

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