cover image Meet Calliope Day

Meet Calliope Day

Charles Haddad. Delacorte Press, $14.95 (160pp) ISBN 978-0-385-32518-9

Haddad's first children's book introduces an impulsive nine-year-old with an imagination that runs off in bizarre directions--with the very least provocation. This makes for some outlandish scenes, the first occurring in the novel's opening pages, when Calliope, fancying herself a vampire about to bite into her teacher's neck (""Calliope could taste Mrs. Perkins' blood, and it was sweet""), inadvertently spits out her prized pink plastic fangs, which fly through the air and hit a classmate in the head. Haddad's plot careens from one bit of low comedy to another: Calliope instigates a food fight at her after-school program (from which she, unbelievably, repeatedly sneaks out of, opting to spend afternoons home alone); Calliope flashes back to the residents of her street trying unsuccessfully to wrest a TV remote control from the stiff hands of a dead neighbor, a particularly crass scenario given that Calliope is said to be smarting from the death of her father two years earlier; and the girl tries to remove, first with her fingers and then with a Dustbuster, an ant that has crawled into the nose of her elderly neighbor Mrs. Blatherhorn. Calliope's relationship with Mrs. Blatherhorn, an initially crusty woman who softens when the similarly lonely child reaches out to her, gives this novel, an odd commingling of the sad and the silly, a little dimension. Illustrations not seen by PW. Ages 8-12. (Aug.)