Calli Be Gold

 
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Calli Be Gold

“We are the Golds!We’re golden!” he boomed at me.“No Gold is average!”Dad was going ballistic, but Calli’s fourth grade report card said it was so.Now a fifth grader, Calli Gold is an average in a family of overachievers.Mom quit her job in industry to manage her “Golden” children’s lives.She keeps “the Calendar”—the family’s master schedule of older sister Becca’s skating lessons and competitions and high school brother Alex’s basketball practices and games—complete with color-coded Post-Its for each child.These she sticks to the steering wheel of the minivan as she shuttles Becca and Alex to their important events.Calli has a color, too, but her Post-Its are only for doctor’s appointments because Calli does nothing.And it’s not for want of trying—her parents have tried giving her lessons on every sport and instrument imaginable, only to fail as Calli never succeeds in finding her passion.All of the other Golds are loud, and Calli is a quiet, thoughtful girl.She notices the little things in life, and they give her moments of insight—but you don’t get trophies and ribbons for those.Calli is content with her two best friends and ordinary school life, but most days she spends her after-school hours in the back of the van, going with Mom to deliver and pick up Becca and Alex.Dad and Mom keep pressuring her to find a passion, so that at the dinner time ABC game (Alex, Becca, Calli) she can report out on the amazing things she’s done that day, too.One day at the skating rink, again awaiting the end of Becca’s practice, Calli notices a small boy lying under the hockey-foosball table.He’s wearing a zipped-up dark blue jacket and his hair is a mess.She crouches down and tries to talk to him, but he is unresponsive.She notices a tag in his jacket with the name Noah Zullo written on it.Noah refuses to respond, and Calli becomes worried.She tries to get her mom’s attention, but Mom is too involved in a problem with Becca’s team’s costumes and refuses to hear Calli, so the matter is dropped.But in an amazing coincidence a few days later, Calli’s class begins a Peer Helper Project (PHP) with a second grade class, and Calli notices Noah hiding under his desk.She offers to peer with Noah, and somehow the “average” girl who notices things becomes a lifeline to a scared, lonely little boy on the brink of being diagnosed with autism (likely, although the syndrome is never named).Because Calli has suffered from feeling inferior her entire life, she can relate to Noah’s fears of being ridiculed by others and his anxiety over his diagnosis.When Calli’s and Noah’s teachers come up with the idea of hosting a PHP Friendship Fair, she and Noah decide to create a Secret Friendship Booth—because they’ve learned that friends keep each other’s secrets.Calli finally has an event to post on the Calendar, but of course it conflicts with Alex’s and Becca’s pre-existing commitments.There are only 2 parents, so who will attend Calli’s event?Enter feisty Grandma Gold, who tells it like it is!Grandma attends Calli’s fair, but the climax of the story brings fear and anxiety for Noah has gone missing.His dad dropped him off early, but Noah never met up with Calli…where could he be?In a flash of insight, Calli knows where he will be, and she finds her true calling.Debut author Hurwitz has taken a situation common to many modern children and created a cast of characters around it that faithfully portrays a lifestyle many tween girls will relate to.She also lets young readers see what happens when the kids in the story have more insight than their parents do, and how child-parent interactions can lead to growth for children and parents alike.One chapter includes some discussion of puberty, bras and chest development, and a chant by the boys (u-ter-us!) from the gym teacher’s introduction to the health unit—perfectly appropriate material for a book whose audience is upper elementary girls.This audience will be looking for more stories from this up-and-coming author who truly understands them.

Recommended by Shari Shaw, Librarian.

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"The way I look at it, you can divide all the people in the world into two categories: the loud ones who shout about who they are and what they do, and the quiet ones who just are and do./I suppose one kind balances out the other kind...Except for this: if you're a quiet person randomly and hopelessly born into a family of louds, then it isn't a balance at all.  It's downright lopsided./Unfortunately, that would be me.  Calli Gold, number three kid in the Gold family.  One quiet.  Four louds.  Lopsided.  Not to mention exasperating."
 
With this introduction, we meet eleven-year-old Calli, a girl who is not the athlete her older sister and brother are.  The fifth-grader's parents are certain that their youngest offspring will find the area where she shines, for the Golds are achievers.  However, until she does, Calli finds herself dragged to Alex's basketball games and Becca's skating practices and competitions (she is not allowed to stay home alone) while her mother juggles color-coded Post-Its to manage the family's hectic schedule.
 
It is at the skating rink that Calli makes a discovery under a video game: a little boy named Noah Zullo.  She learns his name from a tag attached to his jacket, but the child remains unresponsive to her efforts to engage him in conversation.  Even after Calli's mother rushes her away to Alex's game, she cannot stop thinking about Noah.  But there is little time to dwell on him.  Calli's life at school is full with her two best friends, Wanda and Claire.  Yet the afternoon after the skating rink encounter, Calli's teacher (who has a penchant for wearing socks with insect designs and taking off her shoes after lunch) announces that their class will begin a Peer Helper Project with the second grade.  When the fifth graders arrive at the younger students' classroom, Calli sees a familiar little boy sitting under a desk--and, to her surprise, chooses him to be her peer.  She has no answer to Noah's question as to why she did.  However, as time goes on, and it becomes apparent that the child has a "syndrome" (he only knows the name begins with an A, so it might be Asperger's), Calli develops a rapport with her peer.  As their relationship develops into something stronger than the partnership initiated by the program, Calli discovers that she may have found her "passion" at last--and the strength to demand the respect and consideration her parents have reserved for her older siblings.

Michele Weber Hurwitz' debut novel will strike a chord with any young person who lives with high-achieving family members.  Told with humor and sensitivity, Calli's story rings true: the sibling relationships, her friendship with Wanda and Claire, the dynamics of an overly-busy family.  The characters, major and minor, are well-rounded and believable.  Kids will find a kindred spirit and a favorite heroine in Calli Gold.  198 pages.  Ages 9-12 

Recommended by:  Barbara Karp, Librarian, New York USA

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