Philip is twelve years old and life is pretty good. He gets on with his mum and gets by pretty well at school – in spite of girl problems, teacher problems, bully problems and – er – poetry problems. Philip’s happy-go-lucky life is disrupted when his mother gets breast cancer. Bad enough that your mother is seriously ill – but could she not have developed a less embarrassing kind of cancer – toe cancer, maybe, or ear cancer? Philip’s attempts to cope with his situation are both hilarious and touching.
Through it all, he’s writing letters to his hero, the comedian Harry Hill, looking for advice. Then there’s The Yeti, The Goddess, The Meerkats and Philip’s best friend Ang. Oh, yes, and Mrs Chihuahua next door and her annoying mutt.
A hilarious take on life, love, glasses – and cancer
PRAISE FOR THE BEST MEDICINE
Longlisted for the Branford Boase Award 2017
Shortlisted for the Great Reads Award 2016
Winner of the Haringey Children’s Book Prize 2017
‘Funny, moving and strangely empowering in its determination to laugh in the face of the seemingly unbearable, it’s hard to believe that it’s a first novel. Look, just buy it. You won’t regret the decision.’
– John Connolly, New York Times Bestselling author of The Book of Lost Things
‘I was bowled over by it. She has a wonderful voice and a great sense of humour. She reminded me of Frank Cottrell Boyce. I devoured it in one sitting. It’s about a boy whose mother is diagnosed with breast cancer. But it’s also about the comedian Harry Hill and a boy who loves to tell jokes and a mother who is behaving very oddly and about falling in love and about your best friend falling for the girl you fancy … Just go out and buy it. It’s fabulous.’ – Patricia Forde, author of The Wordsmith
‘The book is a real insight into how a parent’s illness can impact a child, and the unusual ways they cope with it all. A perfect little book if you your little one knows a close family member who is battling cancer, and is unsure how to deal with the diagnosis.’ – Mummypages
‘Christine Hamill has a way of bringing humour to the trauma of cancer that no other author has dared to’ – The Belfast Telegraph
‘The light-hearted touch in this story stops it from becoming a maudlin tale about illness, which is particularly clever given the subject matter. Instead, it is a down-to-earth, funny, emotive story which has you laughing and crying at the same time. Philip’s observations and reactions to his Mum’s perplexing behaviour are utterly realistic and many will be able to relate to his feelings of desperation. When the truth is finally revealed, that his Mum is facing a battle with cancer, it is done so with extreme care by the author. Whilst the realities are bleak, Philip sets about trying to cope, sort out his problems and help his Mum, with hilarious and moving moments throughout … This uplifting book will open the eyes of those who think illness should be kept behind closed doors and only whispered about.’ – The Book Activist
‘The story drives along at a rollicking pace – the comedy and the serious matter of potential tragedy harmonising nicely.’ – The Irish Times
‘The stages of Philip’s Mum’s illness and treatment and its emotional effects are portrayed convincingly and the light-hearted fictional approach to a difficult subject, told through Philip’s likeable, funny voice, will help young people to understand and cope with a situation that many are likely to face.’ – Books for Keeps
‘A tender and engaging novel, that will also make you laugh out loud. Not only does the book thoroughly entertain throughout, it will also provide comfort and support for adults and children alike who are experiencing a familiar situation. Whilst it can seem like the future in such circumstances is grim, Christine shows that you are not alone and that you can find support in the most unlikely of places. I can not recommend this book highly enough!’ – Ulster Tatler Magazine
‘Sweet, funny and touching. I loved it.’ – Sue Leonard, Irish Examiner
‘Despite the rather serious underlying topic matter of a cancer diagnosis, there is no doubt that The Best Medicine is very much a comedy at its heart. Humour is everywhere, from the jokes scattered liberally throughout the pages, to the fan-letters to Harry Hill that frame the chapters, to the many ridiculous and hilariously laugh-out-loud situations that the boy somehow manages to get himself into throughout the book. For much of the story, Philip’s narrative reads like one continuous stand-up routine, bursting out of the seams with his love for comedy and almost perpetually humorous outlook on life. And fortunately for readers, Christine Hamill proves herself to be a very funny writer which, coupled with her skilful capture of the genuine voice and personality of a 12-year-old, makes for both a highly entertaining and wonderfully realistic tale.
Philip’s reactions to his mother’s diagnosis, her behaviour, her physical changes, all feel so genuine and understandable. They are the reactions of a kid who might not fully understand all the medical science and technicalities of his mother’s disease, but who loves his mother and knows her well. He can sense something of what she’s going through even if he struggles to find a way to make her feel better. It’s a beautiful insight into the effect that a disease like cancer can have, not just on the patient, but also on the surrounding friends and family. In particular, it is a portrayal that sidesteps the potential to drown in sorrow and sentimentality, instead choosing to convey how everyday life keeps going despite the life-changing nature of a diagnosis. The powerful bond between mother and son, and the wonderful support and comfort that such a relationship bestows, forms the beating heart of the story.’ – The Bookbag
‘A remarkably confident book, not shying away from the intricacies of the disease; or the importance of humour despite it. Philip may be dealing with the challenges of first love, poetry, and friendship troubles, on top of an increasingly fraught home life; but for aspiring comedians each challenge is an opportunity to test out new material. Written from Philip’s point of view in a realistically confessional tone, the reader is drawn directly inside the action, and by the final chapter he seems like a real friend. ‘The Best Medicine’ may tackle a sensitive subject, which is a source of trauma for many (and that’s just the first love bit); but it does so in a reassuringly accessible and life-affirming way. Ultimately far more than a book about an illness, ‘The Best Medicine’ is a heart-warming and satisfying read, which will keep both adults and children engaged to the very end.’ – Emily Elphinstone, Nomoreworkhorse
‘A very funny new book for children about the unfunny subject of cancer.’ – NI4Kids, chosen as one of their Summer Reads 2016
‘Christine Hamill’s first novel is a very accomplished, sensitive exploration of the effects of cancer on a single parent, single child family. It is made all the more compelling by the vivid and realistic characterisation of twelve year old Philip … The parts of the book which focus on the effects of cancer treatment on mother and son are powerful and realistic. We are left with no miracle cure but, perhaps more importantly, with a conviction of the underlying goodness of people. The content is wise; the message is important; the book is a great read for all, not just those facing similar circumstances.’ – The School Librarian, Sept 2016
‘The story steers its way through the tricky subject of coping with cancer to great effect. A story that could so easily resort to pathos rises to become a tenacious tale, invested with genuinely funny moments.’ – Carousel Magazine
Christine Hamill studied English Literature at Queen’s University, Belfast. She worked in the arts then trained as a teacher and worked in Spain, England and Northern Ireland. She now lives in Belfast and is a lecturer at a Further Education college where she teaches creative writing. Christine writes books for both adults and children. B is for Breast Cancer is a non fiction work for adults based on her own experiences. This is her first book for children.