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on 9 August 2014
My daughters review:
My Sister Lives On The Mantlepiece is set five years after the 9/11 bombings and is told in the perspective of ten year old Jamie, whose sister sadly died in one of the London attacks. After the death of his sister, Rose, Jamie's whole family has fallen apart. His mum and dad argued so much over Rose's death that in the end the two of them split, leaving Jamie with a drunk dad, a runaway mum and a heartbroken sister, Jas, who was twins with Rose. Jamie, being only ten, hasn't yet felt the heartbreak over his sisters death, and truthfully - he's more annoyed by it. Annoyed at how his family continue to suffer when Rose is no longer there. Annoyed with how he doesn't seem to exist when someone talks about Rose. And he's also annoyed by the ongoing racism that his father distributes towards Muslims because of the attacks. Jamie's had enough of it all and things get even worse when he moves to the Lake District, away from London, to a new school. With no friends, Jamie just relies on his cat for comfort, but inevitably Jamie finds new found comfort in a young girl named Sunya who is in fact, a Muslim. Jamie struggles with balancing his heartbreak at home with his new torment at school and often bullies himself for allowing him to get close to a Muslim girl when 'Muslims killed Rose'. Jamie is just determined to carry on living. He doesn't miss his sister nor is he guilty about it. He just wants people to forget and accept that life comes to a shocking end, but it takes another heartbreak for that to happen.

I have read Ketchup Clouds by Annabelle Pitcher and I was amazed yet slightly disappointed because I thought it would be amazing, however My Sister Lives On The Mantlepiece was a work of art that I thoroughly enjoyed. I loved how it targeted racism towards other religions as well as highlighting the truth about the stereotypes people set today towards religions. I loved how it was written in the perspective of a ten year old boy who was supposed to be heartbroken, when in reality, he's confused and just wants to live his life. I also love how it signified the truth about broken homes and the dismantling impact that alcoholism and affairs can have on a family as well as the impact of death on a child. Annabelle has amazingly presented the theme of death and grieving beautifully and has shown signs how it effects different people by subtly mentioning it.

I think the layout of the novel is amazing as well, as it is written without any speech marks and whenever someone talks, it is in italics. I believe this is due to the idea of it being a conscious stream of thought from Jamie which makes perfect sense and allows you to understand the mind of a ten year old. There were a few swear words which kinda shocked me considering that they were supposedly ten, however, I think it highlights the area and the upbringing of the children. It allows you to see whose nasty and whose nice without being forceful and making you believe certain things. I also love how Annabelle added things that normal ten year olds would say, like comparing things to super heroes and stuff, because this makes you remember what Jamie's age actually is and allows you to rethink what he's going through and be more emotionally connected.

I also love how at the end, there is a small segment called Jasmine which allows you to read how Jas, Rose's twin, is coping with the death of her twin. And it's amazing how she appears to be really strong on the outside when in reality she is hiding a few things and trying to cope on her own. I think this is a really nice touch and compels you for a short amount of time.

Overall, the story is amazing, the plot is hard. It's honest and serious but with hints of humour. I think it can be relatable in the way of a broken home, bullying, death and alcoholism, which are all strong subjects that need to be covered, but Annabelle does it without making it too dramatic or too packed with drama. The story is enticing and compelling. It's really gentle to read too because the vocabulary is colloquial towards a ten year old. It definitely tickles your emotions and makes you wonder a few things. A brilliant story!
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on 3 March 2016
I first read this book about 4 years ago and it's played on my mind ever since. I was at University studying Primary Education and we were given an assignment to read and review controversial 'children's' books. This one was on the list and I was immediately drawn into it.
I don't want to give away too much as I think this book was so enjoyable because I wasn't sure what to expect. What I will say is the brief setting of where we begin in this book.
We start with Jamie Matthews who is ten years old who is explaining how his parents lost one of their children to a terrible terrorist attack. Since, they have been unable to invest love, time or effort into their other two children - one being the twin of the little girl who is now a teenager and one being Jamie who never even knew his sister. This caused deep seated issues in the family and pain that they must fight to overcome.
It is a heart wrenching and somehow relatable story about grief, jealousy, racism and the fight for acceptance. You find yourself investing so much in the well thought out and deep characters that you meet, laughing and crying along with them. It's very far from doom and gloom as there really are some laugh out loud moments too! There is certainly something to take away from this for everyone that reads it. Here I am 4 years later, buying it to reread with the same love and interest that I had before.
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on 23 July 2014
I sat out in the carpark at work lunchtime finishing this sobbing and trying to keep my mascara from not looking like I'd suffered a death in the family in the intervening half hour !! It was bound to be sad due to the subject matter but it's certainly not all doom and gloom. Jamie who narrates has some witty observations for a ten year old (although he probably doesn't see them that way-he just tells it like it is). Interesting to read his observations through my adult eyes. At times I felt really sorry for him as well. One moment ruined their lives and it was interesting though sad how it spoilt their happy little family unit.
I liked the dedication at the beginning and what the author said at the end too about her husband.
There were some nice little analogies I liked in the story as well......like hearing a smile in his friend's words as if they all had happy faces. Very sweet, as was the mention of the kite flying. I loved his relationship with Roger his cat as well
The only mistake (?) I spotted was one mention of Jasmine that I think was supposed to be Rose and that was it. Very impressive. I look forward to her next one for sure.
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on 11 February 2018
my sister lives on the mantlepiece is a funny but moving insight on a young boys(Jamies) life after losing his sister. it involves home struggles after his mum and dad split up but also issues at school such as new friends and bullies. Throughout the book Jaime grows and learns more and more about real life rather than the lies he has been brought up with. by the end of the book Jaime forms some unforgettable relationships and the moving ending will make you cry and smile at the same time. I loved this book and i hugely recommend it.
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on 17 October 2012
This is a remarkable debut novel from a young and talented writer and is on my highly recommended list.
Picture the scene: Trafalgar Square, togetherness as a family, the epitome of happiness. Jamie,5, feeding the pigeons and his twin sisters,10, twirling around amongst the pigeons and an abundance of laughter. When Jasmine stopped, Rose continued much to her mother's delight. A different scene. A deafening explosion, dad screaming Rose, Rose, Rose and then a family torn apart by anger, grief and guilt.
"Police found ten bits of her body." A terrorist bomb exploded, destroyed an innocent 10 year old and violated the remainder of her family beyond recognition. The world turned black, the future was bleak but in spite of this, Jamie narrates the story from an innocent, naive 10 year old's point of view. He simply cannot remember much about Rose and cannot grieve over her unlike the rest of his family.
"I don't remember anything about the day except a big bang and lots of crying."
He is affected indirectly by her death in terms of the devastating effect it has on his mother, father and sister Jas. "I can't do this anymore" and mum walked out. Father took to drowning his sorrows, seeking solace in a number of bottles of vodka or umpteen cans of beer. Five years of his life have been destroyed. Jamie and Jas become invisible. "It's like we're dead too," stated Jas. Neglected by those who should love and nurture them. A fresh start and the three move to the Lake District hoping to start again. The urn containing some of Rose's ashes is a constant reminder of the tragedy and whilst it remains on the mantelpiece, in the heart of the household it will control the family and feed their guilty consciences.
Jas changes her image drastically by cutting her hair, dyeing it pink and having her nose pierced, then almost refusing to eat.
There is no denying the seriousness of the content but Jamie is a young boy into Superman and football with a sense of humour and this is the appeal of such a tragic story. So, instead of being constantly depressed we are uplifted with his wry humour. After the funeral he asked Jas where Rose was and she pointed at the urn. "How can a girl fit into something so small?" Delightful. For one of his birthdays Rose had "left" a book for Jamie next to the urn:"I got this strong urge to laugh when I saw it there, and imagined the urn sprouting legs and arms and a head and walking to the shop to buy a present." A gem.
The book also explores friendship, teenage love and bullying with both Jamie and his sister finding the COURAGE TO FLY in a talent show about families sticking together.
Instead of being beaten Jamie ends on a positive note: he felt like the "luckiest, richest boy on the planet." You will understand this feeling when you read the novel and recognise, like the phoenx, the rebirth of hope and love.
Carol Naylor.
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on 31 March 2014
A heart-breaking story about a family who are dealing with the horrific loss of a sister/daughter. The book is not centred around the death of Rose, but of the struggles they face as a family after Mum leaves and Dad moves Jamie and jasmine to a quiet village. Jamie is the narrator and it is an interesting, saddening, but sometimes funny take on life with an alcoholic father, and absent mother.

I feel like any mother or father going through similar struggles, should read this book and see things from their child’s point of view. You will want to scoop Jamie up, wash his Spiderman top, feed him and take him home. The emerging relationship between Jamie and his sister was beautiful. She was the only one who truly understood how Jamie felt about rose- in that he could barely remember her-but was always being asked to.
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on 20 January 2013
This book has been generally well reviewed and I approached it with high expectations: a mistake. It reads like a book aimed at the teen market: its faux-naïf tone, attempting to replicate the thoughts and feelings of the young narrator, ring false to me, and after a while becomes irritating. The short declarative sentences feel as if they were written for beginning readers and, after a while, I needed some adult insight. Also hard to credit the bone- headedness of the father who repeatedly takes his children to dispose of their dead sister's ashes, only to restore them once more to their honoured place on the mantelpiece.
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VINE VOICEon 27 March 2011
The central character is 10 year old Jamie and through him we see how the whole family is coping (or not) after the death of one of his sisters. The story captures the depth of feeling brilliantly and you really 'live' it along with Jamie, cheering him on one minute and willing him to do the right thing in another. However, even though it has a potentially sombre subject matter it's definitely not depressing. Because of that straightforward commonsense attitude children have it's actually quite humorous. It's rare I laugh out loud when reading a book but I did at this.
It captures childhood remarkably well with a good story that tackles grief, but also acceptance, prejudice, bullying, family loyalty and friendship.
A young adult novel that is probably aimed at the over ten's, but definitely recommended for adults because there is so much to connect with, especially with the added bonus of life experience.
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on 9 August 2015
I really loved this book. I work as a funeral celebrant and deal with loss and grief on a daily basis and I thought this novel dealt with bereavement very well but mainly in an amusing way. The subject matter - a child blown up by a terrorist bomb is horrific and shocking but the focus is on how a child looks at adults grieving and tries to make sense of everything that is happening and through their eyes life really is humour!
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on 17 January 2012
I bought this book for my 12 year old daughter. She really enjoyed it and kept talking about it, so I decided to read it myself. It is writen from the point of view of the main character, an 11 year old boy. The story was much sadder than I expected, and deals with some very tough issues, not least the death of the boy's older sister when he was just 5 years old, and the impact this had on his family. However, there are still some very funny and touching moments in the book, for example when he goes trick and treating with his best friend. It is an extremely well written book and I enjoyed it very much, even though it has some very sad moments! I would highly recommend this book and look forward to reading other books by this author.
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