Sunday, February 06, 2022

Each of Us a Universe

Ferrulo, Jeanne Zulick. Each of Us a Universe
February 1st 2022 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Calliope Scott's world is filled with problems; her father is in jail, her mother is fighting cancer, and her arm has been in a cast ever since the day that everything went badly wrong. The other girls at school in her small town make fun of her for her father's situation, and for her solitary manner and her worn out clothes. She does have some supportive adults in her life, including her science teacher, Mr. Lopez, who was part of her father's rock climbing community and still visits her dad and asks about him,  and the Demskys, an older couple who run a small grocery store. The Demskys also watch out for Rosine and Mali, sisters who have come to the US from the Democratic Republic of Congo by way of Burundi, and have had a very difficult life. Rosine befriends Cal, who is understandably a bit prickly. One thing that makes Cal feel better is hiking in the mountains near her town of Bleakersville, and she becomes obsessed with finding the "magic" left a number of years ago by a meteorite. There are stories about scientists studying this, but all of the information is vague enough that Cal creates a strong mythology in her own head and is determined that if she can climb the highest point on these mountains, the Spire, she can find a cure for her mother's cancer. Rosine decides to join her, and the girls, along with a stray cat Cal calls Wildcat, try to scale this daunting height. Will Cal find the magic that she seeks, or will the adventure be enough to help her come to terms with the reality of her family's situation. 
Strengths: Cal had a lot of difficult problems in her life, but she dealt with them in a fairly constructive manner. It was good to see the Demskys watching out for her. The father is in jail due to a drunk driving offense, and this is a situation which has affected several of my students and yet is rarely portrayed in middle grade literature. Ferrulo has a note at the end of the book about children dealing with parents with cancer, and this is another fairly common difficulty that also lacks representation. I very much enjoyed Rosine's character, since I taught with a woman who came to the US from the DRC, and Ferrulo consulted a woman with a similar background to make sure the details were correct. Cal's ourdoor adventure wasn't as badly planned as others I have read. 
Weaknesses: Cal's belief that she would find a cure for her mother's illness if she climbed the mountain made this read more like a book for elementary school students. This was a little bit like Rauf's The Star Outside My Window in this respect. 
What I really think: This reminded me a bit of Gemeinhart's The Honest Truth (2015) or Wallace's The Wilder Boys (2015), with the adventure undertaken because of issues at home. This author's A Galaxy of Sea Stars (2020) does well in my library, but Ruby in the Sky (2019) has been a hard sell. Debating.

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