Cover image for Promises
Winthrop, Elizabeth.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Clarion Books, 2000.
Physical Description:
32 pages : color illustrations ; 26 cm
A young girl experiences a range of emotions when her mother undergoes treatment for cancer.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR LG 3.0 0.5 41437.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PIC. BK. Juvenile Fiction Central Closed Stacks
PIC. BK. Juvenile Fiction Picture Books

On Order



At the opening of this moving and ultimately hopeful story, Sarah's mother is ill. During her treatment she seems to get sicker and sicker. She's often in the hospital, and at home she needs to rest. Sarah's world is turned upside down. After a long time, her mother starts feeling better. But Sarah still has one more difficult discovery to make: Her mom can't promise that she'll never get sick again. She can make other promises, though, and those special promises are enough for now. Warm, graceful watercolors add a light touch to this life-affirming picture book, perfect for any child whose family is touched by serious illness.

Author Notes

Author Elizabeth Winthrop grew up in Washington, D. C., and has written over 50 works of fiction for all ages. She has won numerous awards including the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award, the Pen Syndicated Fiction Award, the California Young Readers Medal and the Jane Addams Peace Prize Honor Book. Many of her children's books are based on her childhood memories and the experiences of her children and other children she has talked to. Her book Belinda's Hurricane is based on the time she lived through a hurricane with her grandmother on an island off the coast of Connecticut. I Think He Likes Me is based on her daughter's reaction to her younger brother when he was brought home from the hospital. Her most popular books are The Castle in the Attic and The Battle for the Castle.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Ages 6^-8. Sarah misses how things were before her mother's illness. After hospital treatments, her mother seems worse, not better: she's often too tired to do anything but rest, and she has lost her hair. Sarah wants to visit her in the hospital, but she is afraid; she wants to help, but she doesn't know how. Slowly, Mom starts getting better, and although she can't promise Sarah she won't get sick again, she can make other assurances. The simple, first-person narrative sensitively portrays the diverse challenges and emotional impact a parent's illness has on a child, and Lewin's expressive watercolor-and-ink illustrations capture Sarah's many emotions as she navigates everyday life and enjoys outings that celebrate simple pleasures and mother-daughter relationships. A sympathetic book for children in similar situations that conveys how offering support, even in small ways, can make a difference. --Shelle Rosenfeld

Publisher's Weekly Review

A matter-of-fact tone and brisk pace keep Winthrop's (The Little Humpbacked Horse) story of a girl dealing with her mother's chemotherapy treatments from slipping into the maudlin or melodramatic. Related in the first person, the tale convincingly covers young Sarah's gamut of emotions, from simply missing her mother during her hospital stays to reminiscing about times when things were normal ("I remember when I didn't have to tiptoe around the house and I could make as much noise as I wanted") to anger at a schoolmate's comments about her mother's lack of hair. Lewin (Aunt Minnie McGranahan) echoes the strong emotional ties between Sarah and her parents with pen-and-ink close-ups of their interactions; she saves the few wider views of street scenes or hospital corridors to convey Sarah's feeling of inadequacy in protecting her mother (and herself) from the illness's effects. Several of the dialogues here could serve as models for parents struggling to explain terminal illness to a child. In the most moving example, as her mother's health improves, Sarah wants her to promise she won't be sick anymore. "I can't make that promise, Sarah," her mother tells her, but consoles her with other more immediate promisesÄsuch as an ice cream date on the way home from the park. A responsible and poignant approach to a sensitive subject. Ages 5-8. (Apr.) FYI: A portion of this book's royalties will be donated to Cancer Care Inc. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

PreS-Gr 4-Sarah, a young girl whose parent is undergoing treatment for cancer, describes her day-to-day life, expressing a wide range of emotions. Her happiness that her mother is well enough to take a walk turns to fury as a classmate they meet asks why the woman doesn't have any hair. Sarah often feels angry, and longs for the time before the illness. She insists on visiting her mother at the hospital, and is then afraid to see her. Things take a turn for the better when Sarah presents her mother with her baseball cap so that she won't "look funny." As the woman's health slowly improves, Sarah tries to make her promise that she won't be sick anymore. Instead, Mom makes promises that can be kept, like stopping for ice cream and reading a favorite book, adding, "Tomorrow we can think of more." Winthrop handles a difficult situation with honesty, empathy, and small touches of humor. The first-person narration keeps the focus on Sarah, who relates events from a child's point of view. Lewin's watercolor-and-pen illustrations reflect the emotional nature of the text, while balancing the serious tone with warm colors and comfortable everyday scenes. The book ends on a hopeful note, which is nicely reflected in the smiling faces of mother and daughter.-Joy Fleishhacker, formerly at School Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.