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Callie's Rules Hardcover – August 25, 2009
From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 4–6—When you're one of seven kids living in the only purple house in a conservative town with an artsy mom and all her "weirdo" sculptures on display every Halloween, it's tough to fit in. Yet, on the first day of middle school, bright, impetuous Calliope quickly sizes things up in pursuit of popularity. In this chatty, authentic first-person narrative, the icing on each chapter is a pithy list of "Callie's rules," such as, "Don't finish your work first." "Don't sit on the boy side of the cafeteria." When Sandy Van Dine, mother of the perfect and popular Valeri, petitions for Halloween to be banished and replaced by the politically correct and patriotic "Autumn Fest," Callie has to choose acceptance or Halloween. Abandoned by her best friend, and embarrassed by a counter petition that fails, Callie's rules become more perceptive: "There are always a lot more unpopular kids than popular ones. That's the way the popular kids feel they're special." Zucker shoots an ambitious arc for Callie's emotional and artistic growth, but nestles her in a warm, kind, and extraordinary family, which provides her with the courage to overcome peer anxiety, and the lawyerlike discernment to break the "dumb" rules while honoring the necessary ones (like reading the assigned book, not Jane Eyre). Readers will cheer on this emotionally complex, budding writer.—Sara Paulson-Yarovoy, American Sign Language and English Lower School PS 347, New York City
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"Wait until you meet Callie and her family. They're warm and appealing, but mostly they're unusual. They stand up for what they believe in, no matter what! I loved them all, even the dragon!"
--Patricia Reilly Giff
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Stupid rules. Well, rules are rules. They're not supposed to make sense. they're supposed to make the people who know the rules feel good and the people who don't know the rules feel stupid. Too true! These are rules for how to fit in, how to be cool, and by the end of the book Callie figures out that the girls who slavishly follow them are fools.
The premise of the novel is two-fold: Callie is just starting middle school (6th grade), which is a huge transition and she really doesn't get it. At the same time, the richest woman in her rather small town has decided that Halloween is a pagan festival, both too frightening for small children and designed to lure kids into satanism or something. Since she is the banker's wife, she is able to convince lots of people, including the Town Council, that she is right. So while Callie is trying to fit in at her new school, she is also trying to save her favorite holiday. The two tasks seem to be completely incompatible, since being an activist means standing out.
The story is fairly well told, and the message is sound: to be yourself and to stand up for what you believe in. I think it will appeal to middle-grade girls, and may be of some help to those trying to navigate all those unspoken social rules of middle school. Overall, however, I wasn't satisfied. The story didn't feel real, with characters and situation that were just a bit over the top. That's fine, of course, in the right book--one that knows it's over the top. I didn't feel like this one did. It was good enough, but just didn't work for me, despite my appreciation of the message.
She doesn't care, though; she's got her best friend, Alyce, and her list of rules to help her get by. She creates her list of rules about life based on what she herself thinks is true.
However, Callie soon learns that rules can be frustrating and confusing. She doesn't agree with all of them, especially the one that's going to change Halloween in her town.
Some citizens feel that the holiday has taken on a bad meaning and want to create a fall festival theme instead. Callie's family loves Halloween and make plans for it all year long.
Can Callie find the courage to speak up and justify her rules without compromising her true self? Does it really matter what others think of her?
This is a very enjoyable book about being accepted no matter what our differences are. Callie is a strong, independent young woman who tries not to let others influence her. I highly recommend this book!
Reviewed by: hoopsielv
Callie sets down her observations in writing, coming up with "Callie's Rules," such as "If you want to stay out of trouble, take a vow of silence."
I won't spoil the plot by telling you what happens; I'll just recommend this book. Anyone who has ever felt the pain of being mocked for who they are will find a friend in Callie and feel delight as she eventually discovers her courage. Callie learns that although it may be risky to speak up, it's even more risky to hide yourself away.