- Hardcover: 272 pages
- Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR); First Edition edition (September 1, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0805076697
- ISBN-13: 978-0805076691
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 7.7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 14 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,320,131 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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What I Call Life Hardcover – August 11, 2005
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From School Library Journal
Grade 5-8–When her unstable mother has a psychotic episode, Cal is placed in a group home run by an elderly woman called The Knitting Lady. The 11-year-old's new roommates are four girls, all in different stages of denial about their own situations. Cal, who prides herself on her independence and is fiercely protective of her mother, insists that she'll be going home any day and that what is happening is not at all part of her real life. Meanwhile, time passes, the girls learn to knit, and the Knitting Lady tells stories about two girls from long ago: one who was abandoned at an orphanage by her own mother, and another who was sent west on an orphan train. Set against these narratives, the present-day story involves shifting alliances, a search for a younger sister who may or may not exist, and a clear-eyed view of life in a group home and/or with fosters (regarding placements, one girl tells Cal, Everything gets decided behind your back). The author has a knack for vivid descriptions, suspenseful plotting, and a clear telling of the stories-within-the-story. A thoughtful and ultimately hopeful book, this novel has flashes of humor that lighten the sometimes painful events. Not all readers will take to it, but those who do will find it resonant and absorbing.–Lauralyn Persson, Wilmette Public Library, IL
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
*Starred Review* Gr. 5-8. After her mother has a breakdown in the middle of the public library, Cal is taken to live in a group home, which houses five other girls from troubled families. The young residents of the orange-colored Pumpkin House wear their wounds inside and out: Whitney is brash, bubbly, and determined to find her long-separated sister; timid Monica is whiny and full of complaints; Fern is an incessant giggler who sports a black eye; quiet, intelligent Amber has pulled every hair from her head, eyebrows, and all. Cal just feels different. She's sure she is not a whiner, not a fusser; she shows no emotion, and she's very organized. After all, she has held herself and her mother together for all of her 11 years. The Knitting Lady, the girls' tiny, elderly guardian, slowly begins the girls' healing process by sharing her love for knitting and storytelling. As the girls experience quiet time, reflection, and bonding with each other and their guardian, the Knitting Lady helps the girls recognize their own goodness and worth. Wolfson paints her characters with delightful authenticity. Her debut novel is a treasure of quiet good humor and skillful storytelling that conveys subtle messages about kindness, compassion, and the gift of family regardless of its configuration. For slightly older readers, suggest Elizabeth Lenhard's Chicks with Sticks (It's a Purl Thing) (2005). Frances Bradburn
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
Jill Wolfson is a loving and caring author. She takes the young reader on a journey visiting problems that many youngsters are fortunate to have never known; she continues by getting into the emotions and thought processes of the protagonist, where they take her and how she works through them. "What I Call Life" is about a growing youngster; her experiences and relationships with others in a foster home, even though she still has a mother. All that with an ending that is pleasant for the reader.
I can't wait for the opportunity to discuss this story with my 11 1/2 year old granddaughter to learn how she enjoyed it, what she got out of it and how the experiences made her feel
The Knitting Lady is an insightful and patient woman, who is not presented as simply "all-knowing and wise", but also as a caring person with her own wounds and self-doubts. She does seem almost too good to be true: occasionally relaxing the rules and letting the girls learn truths on their own, going with the flow and being totally present - but, as I said, she does have her own self-doubts. I feel that the Knitting Lady was not only the girls' mentor in the story, but that she has become my mentor as well.
My daughter observed me while tears ran down my face a few times when I was reading the book and asked, "Why are you crying Mom? Is it sad?" I replied, "Some parts are very sad, but the parts that make me cry are the happy ones.."
This is a very touching book.
The girls, the Knitting Lady, and their stories stayed with me for days after reading the story. Actually, they haven't left - I can still feel them. They make me want to be a better person.
Thank you, Jill Wolfson, for giving all of us this story and for giving us the Knitting Lady.
The book What I Call Life is about a girl named Cal Lavender who gets put in an orphanage with four other girls named, Whitey, Amber, Monica, and Fern. Cal has to learn hoe to live in an orphanage with other girls and by different rules. Do you like she can live in a whole different place without her mom Betty? Read the book to find out.
I like how the author, Jill Wolfson wrote Cal's life very detailed. Like when Cal was in the cop car on the way to the orphanage Jill described how the car smelled like "Stale cigarette smoke " and looked like, " Ripped up seats, dirty stuff on the floor." I also like how the author really described what the girls looked liked. "Amber's bald, has no eyebrows, and no face expression what so ever." "Whitney's two front teeth are sliver. She has wacky hair like she un-brushed it." I love how the story is told through Cal and not anyone else in the book.
I think you should read this book and go through all the twist and turns in Carolina Agnes London Indiana Florence Ohio Renee Naomi Ida Alabama Lavender's life. (Also known as Cal Lavender)
She's taken to a big, orange house where a really old lady and four other girls her age live. One girl has a broken arm. One a black eye. Another has no hair. And the last seems to be hyped up on caffeine, yelling at everyone.
Cal tries to be nice, but they keep telling her that this is going to be her home for a while. She doesn't want to believe them. Instead, she thinks her mom will walk in at any moment and take her home. Cal ends up living there for quite some time. At first she hates it and wants to go home, but then when she makes good friends with Whitney and Amber, and she starts to like the house.
As for what happens next to Cal and her friends...well, you'll just have to read the book to find out.
Originally posted on 3 Book Bees Blog
This book has none of those things. It depicts real-world girls, in a realistic situation, coping with reality as they see it.
That said, this is also an extremely warm and hope-filled book. The characters - all girls - have hopes and dreams and plans for making the future a better place. They are far more than just the sum of their syndromes, in other words.
A brief plot summary: The main character, Cal Lavender, aged about 13, finds herself placed in a group home after her mother suffers a breakdown. Cal must find a way to deal with this sudden change of plans. She's forced to interact with the other girls in the home and to balance her hope that she will return to her mother's care with the reality of her existing situation.
But don't misconstrue. This book is *not* a dry, finger-pointing psychological exercise, nor is it a nasty-mouthed coming-of-age slugfest.
Far from it. "What I Call Life" is a bright, breezy, funny, warm and humane look at how it's possible to rise above disappointments and discover the mystery in the moment.
There's lots of witty -- but not snotty -- dialogue here, and an undercurrent of empathy that somehow never lapses into the cloying.
This is a glorious book, and I recommend it highly, especially for girls around 10 to 14, and especially for parents to share and discuss with a child.
Most recent customer reviews
What is life? What's your life story? Are you living your life or someone elses? Then OMG...you have to read this book!!!!Read more
What is life? Whats your life story? Are you living your life or someone elses?Then OMG...you have to read this book!!!!Read more