Quill & Quire
For tween girls who recently watched Canada’s female athletes clean up in Vancouver, swimming fanatic Callie Boone arrives right on time. Callie is 11, and we meet her during her “worst summer ever,” one filled with some pretty typical tweenage angst: her best friend dumps her for the bitchy, pretty girl in class, and her family is nutters. All she’s got – or so she thinks – is her passion for swimming, which she shares with her doting dad.
It must be written somewhere that every quirky tween heroine has to have a family whose quirks are equal to or greater than her own. The Boone clan is no different. There’s the surly but loveable grandma, the itinerant uncle whose entrepreneurial zeal involves ferret breeding, the ex-drill sergeant mom, the annoying brothers. Callie’s only hope of escape is the new kid next door, Hoot, and the community pool.
Winnie Mack (who was born in Vancouver but lives in Portland, Oregon, and whose real name is Wendy French Smith) owes much to Beverly Cleary in her depiction of Callie’s alienation from her mother and feverish devotion to her daydreaming father. Nothing here is forced: Callie’s reconciliation with her mom, for example, relies more on descriptions of feelings than it does on dialogue.
Even better is the climax, in which Callie manages to weather a terrible event extremely well. She deals with the resulting emotions by writing in a journal and deciding to reach beyond herself. This all feels completely normal and natural in the course of the story and lets some threads dangle loose, as they do in real life. Hopefully, Mack will catch up with Callie in a couple of years with a follow-up.
If Callie has a flat note, it’s that her favourite expression (“fish sticks and tartar sauce!”) is one that no self-respecting 11-year-old would adopt for more than a few cutesy rounds before opting for a nice, solid, Anglo-Saxon cuss.
About the Author
Winnie Mack was certain her parents unwittingly cursed her writing career with a happy and stable childhood. With happiness continuing to stalk her day and night, she finally conceded defeat, abandoned her request for misery and began writing humourous fiction for women and young readers. After sorting through old memorabilia and journals, she felt inspired to write After All, You're Callie Boone, her first children's novel. Born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, she now lives in Portland, Oregon.