“Illness and imperfection weave together in a meaningful, informative, and emotional tale of friendships.”
As Caleb walks through the woods near his house, he sees what looks like an angel sitting atop a boulder with the sun shining down on her through the trees. This new friend, Kit, gives Caleb all he’s ever hoped for—the freedom and fun of being a normal kid without the categorization and constant reality of his cystic fibrosis looming over him. The fun comes at a price, as Caleb lies and skips summer camp to play with Kit. It isn’t until Caleb learns that Kit’s mother is neglecting her that he realizes their fairytale summer must come to an end. Caleb confides in his mother about Kit’s secret, who demonstrates that parents can help sort through serious situations. This informative, moving book gives a detailed example of what it’s like to live with cystic fibrosis and creates a genuine tone to this emotional tale (best for older middle-grade readers) about a boy who reminds us that fighting an illness takes courage, particularly when there’s no magic Captain America serum to be had. Kit teaches Caleb a repeated mantra throughout the story, “I can do what I want,” which, with his lying, leads to a touch of rebellion plaguing the story. However, the end of the book leaves us with a lesson on the value of honesty and the magic of friendship.
From award-winning author Beth Vrabel comes a powerfully moving story about a magical friendship, coping with disability, and the pains of growing up and growing apart. Twelve-year-old Caleb is shorter, frailer, and more protected than most kids his age. That’s because he has cystic fibrosis, a diagnosis meaning lungs that fill with mucus and a shortened lifespan. Caleb tries not to let his disorder define him, but it can be hard with an overprotective mom and a perfect big brother. Then Caleb meets Kit—a vibrant, independent, and free girl—and his world changes instantly. Kit reads Caleb’s palm and tells him they are destined to become friends. She calls birds down from the sky and turns every day into an adventure. Her magic is contagious, making Caleb question the rules and order in his life. But being Kit’s friend means embracing deception and danger, and soon Caleb will have to decide if his friendship with Kit is really what’s best for him—or her. This new paperback edition includes a Q&A with the author as well as a sneak peek at Beth Vrabel’s next middle grade novel, The Humiliations of Pipi McGee.
Families are unique and have different expectations for the books they choose to read. The following is a list of concepts included in this book that some parents may wish to seek out or avoid.
Serious Subject Matter: Caleb’s friend, Kit, has a mother who’s unable to care for her. The book does a great job handling this situation in a child-friendly way, but you may want to discuss this issue in the book and how Caleb chose to do what’s best for his friend.
This story also gives the reader a deep look into Caleb’s life with cystic fibrosis, discussing symptoms that come with the disorder (e.g. having a harder time going to the bathroom, a median predicted survival age of 40, etc.).
Language: There are two instances of profanity (taking God’s name in vain) in this book.
Note that this list is not exhaustive and there may be concepts in this book that are not included or have been insufficiently or incorrectly detailed here.
Caleb and Kit shares many details about what it’s like to live with cystic fibrosis. What did you learn about the disease? How does understanding more about cystic fibrosis increase your empathy?
Caleb skipped summer camp, kept Kit a secret, and lied at other times in the book. How did Caleb’s dishonesty lead to trouble? Why was it important for him to tell the truth?
Caleb’s mom would set a timer for 10 minutes for Caleb to feel sorry for himself when he was having a hard time and thinking about cystic fibrosis. His mom said he should feel the emotion for a time and then “move onward and upward.” How could this be a helpful practice for you?
This book is so genuine and meaningful. This story presents a heartfelt journey of a young boy with an illness that just wants to be normal. Caleb has Cystic Fibrosis, so you learn a lot about the disease and readers can develop a lot of empathy through his story. His new friend, Kit, has a mother who isn’t taking care of her as she should. Caleb keeps Kit a secret from his family for a while, and later on learns that he needs to take responsibility and not keep secrets any longer, as they only hurt those around him.
I am the author of the Cybils’-nominated Caleb and Kit, ILA award-winning A Blind Guide to Stinkville, JLG-selection A Blind Guide to Normal, The Reckless Club, and the Pack of Dorks series. I’ve received starred and positive trade reviews across the board for my novels and am active in school and library visits around the country.
I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania. In fourth grade, I won a short-story contest and promptly decided writing was what I was going to do with my life. Although my other plans—becoming a wolf biologist, a Yellowstone National Park ranger, and a professional roller skater—didn’t come to fruition, I stuck with the writing. I can’t clap to the beat nor be trusted around Nutella.
How did writing the story of Caleb and Kit change you?
Writing Caleb and Kit changed me in so many wonderful ways. I’m most grateful for the friendships I’ve gained. I think about William Marler, a young filmmaker, podcast producer and all-around amazing human. Like Caleb, Will lives with cystic fibrosis but it is just one aspect of his full, vibrant life. The first time we spoke, Will said, “My CF has taught me that if things are difficult to achieve, they are only more worth achieving.” Having Will and others’ insight as I crafted Caleb helped me ensure that Caleb’s story isn’t about cystic fibrosis. It’s about Caleb, who happens to have CF.
For Will, Jack, and Joey
The cystic fibrosis is well-handled—it affects every part of Caleb’s life but never defines who he is.
A realistic story with strong, recognizable characters that doesn’t reduce cystic fibrosis to a tragedy.
Filled with smart, witty, and magical writing, Kit and Caleb, and those around them, come to vibrant life in this heartbreaking story about the ties that bring people together, and the difficulties of facing the truth.
Hand to readers looking for a novel about both the magic and the pain of friendship. A solid purchase for most collections.
When the reality of Caleb’s illness comes crashing through their imaginary world, so does the truth about Kit’s life. This is a compelling story of two struggling kids making their own safe haven from harsh worlds neither of them deserves, there’s both joy and sadness in its conclusion.
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