There are some things you should know about the main character of Ways to Live Forever. Sam is eleven years old. He collects stories and fantastic facts. He’s writing a book about his life…..and by the time you read his book, he will probably be dead (4).
Sam has terminal leukemia. However, he is a philosopher and scientist. He’s not going quietly into that good night. He’s questioning his illness and his dying and conducting experiments all along the way with his best friend, Felix who is also terminally ill. He makes up lists….his bucket list is great one…..and questions that nobody ever answers about death for children and sets off to find the answers through ordinary and amazing experiences.
Through Sam’s illness and death, young readers (I recommend this book for grades 4-8) get a tender and real view of childhood cancer that isn’t sugared up or softened in a way that adults would do to spare children painful reactions to a difficult subject. Rather, the story depicts a child’s way of living on his own terms, passionately, nobly and with lots of action. We love Sam’s journey through his illness because he lives as best he can. We cry when Sam dies and see that he has indeed invented some ways to really live forever. The book is also easily read. The reading level is low enough that younger readers can enjoy the story of very complex concepts.
Ways to Live Forever was written by Sally Nicholls in England and reflects life there. It might throw a few readers but not terribly. The book is for adults as well because we can learn what kids with terminal illnesses need and want—less visiting and gifts, more doing and memory making!
Ways to Live Forever is a new movie. See the trailer at:
Sally Nicholls is a very young writer just beginning her career. Visit her website:
Ways to Live Forever has won several awards in Europe:
- The Waterstone Children’s Book Prize 2008 (British)
- 2008 Glen Dimplex Writer’s Award (Irish)
- 2008 Luchs des Jahres (German)
- 2009 Concorde Children's Book Award (British)
- Shortlisted for the 2009 Manchester Book Award (British)
- 2012 Virginia Readers Choice Nominee for Middle School Readers
Nicholls, S. Ways to Live Forever. New York: Scholastic. 2008. Print.