Published: April 1, 2017
Publisher: Central Avenue Publishing
Genre: Middle Grade
Review: ARC provided by author
Buy Links: Amazon, Amazon.uk
My name is Calvin Sinclair, I'm eleven years old and I have a confession… ...I killed my brother.
It's the summer before grade six and Calvin Sinclair is bored to tears. He’s recently moved from a big city to a small town and there's nothing to do. It’s hot, he has no friends and the only kid around is his six-year-old brother, Sammy, who can barely throw a basketball as high as the hoop. Cal occupies his time by getting his brother to do almost anything: from collecting ants to doing Calvin’s chores. And Sammy is all too eager - as long as it means getting a "Level" and moving one step closer to his brother's Eagle status.
When Calvin meets Aleta Alvarado, a new girl who shares his love for Goosebumps books and adventure, Sammy is pushed aside. Cal feels guilty but not enough to change. At least not until a diagnosis makes things at home start falling apart and he's left wondering whether Sammy will ever complete his own journey...
We received this book to give an honest review.
Before I even started to read the book the author mentioned that there was talk of death so I had a heads up. I was worried when I started the book if K would enjoy the book being as this is not something he would have just picked up to start reading. We started reading about two chapters a night and it took us a good two weeks to finish it. I will say this, you will cry with this book. K got very upset with the fact that Sammy died, he didn't want him too. He also mentioned that there shouldn't be bad words. Though the only bad word that is mentioned is the s word and that is only three times. This led me to explain how the person who said that was expressing his feelings.
There were a lot of things that I enjoyed with this book. It had K really ask questions on what the meaning of certain words were, to what exactly is cancer and, even to why do people die? It was a great discussion for us and it is something that I took time to answer.
Calvin is a normal kid with a brother who loves to follow him around, so Calvin gives him things to do to earn a 'level' which for his brother Sammy it is something amazing. I will be honest I cried when Sammy earned the highest level possible. Then Calvin starts spending more time with a new friend and less with his brother. This leads us to where the family gets the news you never want to hear and this has Calvin feeling so many emotions one of them being guilt. Now as the story progresses we see how Sammy handles his sickness and how Calvin handles it. Calvin even makes a friend with a kid in the hospital named Oliver and Oliver seems to have sound advice when asked. I really loved Oliver's interpretation of Heaven and the poem that is read towards the end, well lets just say it goes perfect with it all.
We learn how Calvin believes he killed his brother but it is something you need to read to find out why he believes that. I can honestly say this is one of the best books I have read with K that seemed to really open his eyes. I would really recommend this book for the middle grades.
Alex Lyttle is a pediatrician living in Calgary, Alberta with his wife and three children. He was raised in London, Ontario - the setting of his first novel, From Ant to Eagle, which he wrote based on his experiences working in the Pediatric Oncology unit. When he is not working, writing or playing basketball, he enjoys learning new magic tricks to perform for his young patients.
Interview with author Alex Lyttle
1. How much of From Ant to Eagle is based on your real experiences as a pediatrician and how much did you make up?It is no secret that there is as much truth in this novel as there is fiction. I began writing the novel during my oncology rotation in medical school and wrote as a form of catharsis. Many of the characters are drawn from real patients—their names and ages changed for confidentiality reasons. Sammy and Cal are not based on specific people, but instead, are a combination of various people. Pieces of their relationship are also drawn from my relationship with my younger brother. The levels, the love of Goosebumps books, and—as the amazing Andrew Norriss put it, “the casual brutality of their relationship”—are all experiences I shared with my brother, for better or for worse.
During the seven years it took me to write this novel, I also got married, had/raised three children, wrote two medical board exams, and worked long hours as a pediatric resident. So the obvious question is: where did I find the time? Clearly it wasn’t easy—it took seven years after all—but the truth is, if you love something enough, you will find time to do it. For me, writing wasn’t something I needed to make time for, it was something I obsessively did. Between diaper changes and playing with the kids, between 24-hour call shifts and studying, I always found a few minutes here and there to write. If you aspire to write your own novel, I encourage you to not wait. There will always be other things going on, but if you start now, and find that you truly enjoy it, the time will find you.
2. Between medicine and parenting, how did you find time to write?
When I started writing From Ant to Eagle I had only two ideas—to write about brothers and to write about the effect cancer has on siblings. I didn’t know how it would end, or even how it would begin, I just started writing. Over the course of the next seven years, it evolved into what it is today. In the end, I hope that people will not read this novel and think of it as a “sad novel” but instead, a love story. Because to me, the central theme of this novel is not loss or death, but love; the love that exists between brothers, even if it is not always evident.
3. This is a sad novel; did you set out to make it that way or did it just evolve into that?
When I began sending my novel out to literary agents, I heard back from the very first agent I sent it to. She said, “I love the novel, I think it has wonderful potential, but I think you should consider rewriting the ending so that Sammy doesn’t die.” So I did exactly that. I rewrote the second half of the novel and made it so that Sammy lived (he got a bone marrow transplant and Cal was his donor). But after rereading it, I decided it no longer felt like my novel. Yes, it was happier, and yes, many people would likely prefer it that way, but it wasn’t what I had set out to write. The harsh reality of pediatric oncology is that there are thousands of children like Sammy and Cal out there, and in the end, I chose to tell their story.
4. Did you ever consider writing the novel so that Sammy didn’t die?
Right now, I am working on a middle grade, fantasy novel in which animals talk, one girl has supernatural powers, and nobody has cancer. It is a respite from the last novel. I will eventually write another book like it—in fact, I already have most of it written in my head—however I suspect it will be years before I finally get it on paper.
5. What’s up next for you and your writing career?