Published: September 2017 by Running Press Kids
Genre: Middle Grade Fiction
My Rating: 5/5 Stars
I’ll just start this off by saying that I think you should absolutely read this book.
If it weren’t for the wonderful community of readers that I’ve found online, this one likely would have escaped my notice. It’s a middle grade novel, intended for younger readers, and I might not have given it a second thought if it weren’t for all of the people who have been championing for it. I’m so glad it ended up on my radar, and that I finally read it, and I’m here to encourage you to do the same! Even if middle grade fiction isn’t usually your cup of tea, this book is definitely worth the read.
Caleb and Kit tells the story of Caleb, a boy who is “shorter, frailer, and more protected than most twelve year olds.” Caleb has cystic fibrosis, a disease that consists of daily treatments, frequent hospitalizations, and certain precautions in order to stay healthy. In this story, Caleb meets Kit, a strange girl who lives nearby and who seems to live a life without rules. She doesn’t go to school, she eats cereal out of the box for lunch, she believes fairies are living all around us. Drawn in by her life of freedom, Caleb begins sneaking off and acting out in order to spend more time with her.
I adored this book for a number of reasons. First, and perhaps most obviously, for its representation of a character with CF. I learned so much about this disease and what it might be like to live as a child with it. And as much as I learned personally, imagine how a child, also living with CF or another chronic illness might feel reading about someone who understands their struggles. Caleb and Kit doesn’t shy away from any of the difficult subjects that come up when talking about CF. It doesn’t try and sugar coat the disease, nor does it try to use it for sympathy. Author Beth Vrabel tackles each subject head on, in a way that can resonate with younger readers and with adults, teaching us about the disease and giving us a very real and complete character in Caleb.
For me, this book was also about learning that actions have consequences. Kit’s motto is “I do what I want,” and Caleb, who has always been so restricted in what he’s allowed to do, is pretty starstruck by this. But as these two spend more time together, Caleb begins to realize that all of their actions have consequences, both for themselves and for others. When some of their choices result in unintentional ramifications, Caleb has to learn that just because he wants to do something doesn’t make it right.
On top of this, and on top of the subject of chronic illness, this book also deals with bullying, divorce, finding and losing friendships, and mental illness. Sometimes when books try to fit in so many things, it feels like too much. But with this one I never felt that way. I felt like it told a real story, with all of the complications that come with real life.
Although written for a younger audience, this book is well written and kept me hooked from the very start. Seriously, I read it from beginning to end in basically one sitting, stopping only to eat dinner. It made me laugh, it taught me a lot, and it made me feel for both Caleb and Kit, and for the struggles of both of their families. I can only imagine how this book might have changed my perspective, had I read it when I was a twelve year old.
I’d also like to recommend you check out the Diverse Books Club Goodreads page if you want to see some of the discussions that took place back in February when this was their middle grade pick of the month. I know, I’m a little late to the party, but it’s definitely worth checking out if you haven’t already! I’ll link to a few things below!
Find the DBC on Goodreads here!
Watch members of the DBC discuss the book with the author here!