When 10-year-old Mafalda is diagnosed with a rare genetic illness called Stargardt disease, she knows that her already poor eyesight will get progressively worse, and eventually she’ll become blind. In order to cope, she’s written a list of all the things she wants to do now, and won’t be able to do later—playing soccer, having a paper-ball-in-the-basket competition, and climbing up the school cherry tree.
Estelle, the compassionate school janitor, befriends Mafalda, and tells her, “It’s not important to be able to see everything.” She encourages Mafalda to find “the thing that’s essential to you. Something you can do, even without your eyes.”
Though Mafalda doesn’t understand what Estelle means, she’s clear on one thing—she plans to escape her difficult life by running away from home and living in her beloved cherry tree, just like a character from one of her favorite books did to flee from his trials.
When Mafalda’s plans fall apart, she realizes her need for others, both family and friends. She then understands more fully their love for her, a love that won’t abandon her to the darkness, but will do all it can to help her flourish.
This novel for juvenile readers is based on author Paola Peretti’s experience of being diagnosed with Stargardt disease when she was a teenager, making the story particularly realistic and compelling.
Christian parents and caregivers might want to share this book with children as an empathetic window into a life-changing experience some children face, and discuss how Mafalda’s views on spirituality and life after death counter to the truth as revealed in God’s Word. (Atheneum Books for Young Readers)