Tait makes an impressive departure from her usual historical/fantasy writing,
with this thoroughly engaging contemporary middle-grade novel.

Maree McGee is about to start high school. It’s not the selective high school
that her mother wanted her to attend, and that’s just fine by this tween who is
keen to lose her reputation as the brainy, quiet one, and equally keen to lose
her cumbersome name.

 So, this ritual annual family friends’ holiday
is going to be her opportunity to become just plain Callie, and be ready to
start Birchwood High, with the other kids in the traditional summer group.
She’s not helped by her hovering and restrictive mother, but she is determined,
and finds an unlikely ally in the newest addition to the pack of kids, Owen.

 Callie and Owen have quite a bit in common,
and the chance to solve the mystery of the recent spate of thefts in their
holiday home neighbourhood proves a real chance to bond even further, despite
having long-time annoyance, Mitch, also involved.

friend Sasha is far more interested in pursuing the cute boy she met on the
beach, and there is considerable friction between the two girls. But when Sasha
goes missing after sneaking out, it is Callie’s resourcefulness, resilience and
rational response that saves the day.

 Navigating the tricky passage from child to
young adult is never easy and with the added pressure of a helicopter parent
and the pressure of expectations on an only (and bright) child, even more
difficult. Callie’s experience and concerns will no doubt strike a chord with
many readers, even if they are not in exactly the same position. For many young
people, this is a period of self-doubt and a struggle to establish their own
identity and individuality. Their traverse, from child to teen and primary to
secondary school, as they grow towards adulthood and independence is both a
challenge for self, and for the parent/s – and for many in this ‘only child’
category even more fraught with difficulties.

mystery of the burglaries will fully engage readers, and they will enjoy
putting the clues together, while simultaneously making connections with their
own burgeoning personalities. There will also be many who recognise the lame
dad jokes, the annoying friends (almost like siblings) and the often dreary
aspects of such group holidays – same same every year – and who will fully
empathise with Callie, as she struggles out of her childhood cocoon.
The water in a rip current is always calmer
than the waves on either side. Once in it, you’re best just to go with the
Lucky Callie knows
that despite that, you still need to strike out and get through it to safety.

recommended for readers from around 11 years upwards.

Title: The First Summer of Callie McGee
Author: A L Tait
Publisher: Scholastic Australia. $15.99
Date of Publication: 1 August 2023
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781760260163
For Ages: 11+
Type: Middle Grade Fiction


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