cover image Calvin and the Sugar Apples

Calvin and the Sugar Apples

Inês F. Oliveira, illus. by Vanessa Balleza. Collective Book Studio, $14.95 (240p) ISBN 978-1-68555-219-0

Portuguese 10-year-old Amelia and her chinchilla Calvin, which she’s had since she was a baby, are best friends. “He would give me two things I couldn’t get from any person: time to listen to me and silence to let me think,” Amelia says. But when Calvin goes missing, and her parents inform her that he has died, Amelia doesn’t believe them. Without Calvin, Amelia struggles to regulate her emotions, which are tumultuous after she’s ditched by her best friend Camila, who decides she wants to perform solo in their school’s upcoming talent show. The longer Calvin is gone, the more melancholy Amelia feels, until she befriends new girl Iris, whose father recently died. The girls develop an instant connection over their shared losses, and as Amelia reconnects with Camila, she slowly accepts the loss of Calvin and learns to move forward. Debut author Oliveira’s lush prose brings the Portugal setting to life and portrays Amelia’s grief with realism. Her struggle to manage her emotions, as well as the deeper understanding she reaches of herself and the people around her, is endearing and rewarding. Balezza’s b&w pencil illustrations appear throughout, adding nuance to Amelia’s heightened feelings. Ages 7–10. (Aug.)