Children’s Book Reviews

Children's Book Reviews: Calvin

Publish January 26, 2016

Martine Leavitt’s recent young adult books have explored difficult themes and challenging issues. In Heck Superhero, forwhich she was a Governor General’s award finalist, she examined poverty; in the CLA Young Adult Book award-winning title My Book of Life by Angel, she explored addiction, and now in Calvin, Leavitt tackles mental illness. Seventeen year-old Calvin was born the same day Bill Watterson wrote his last Calvin and Hobbes comic strip. It makes perfect sense to Calvin, then, that when a giant man-eating tiger named Hobbes starts talking to him and he is diagnosed with schizophrenia, only Watterson will be able to make things right. Calvin and his friend, Susie, trek across the frozen waters of Lake Erie to find him, as he reportedly lives on the other side. Such a treacherous journey will surely prove Calvin’s worthiness for one last comic strip – one that would show him, alive and well, without Hobbes. One that would fix everything. Written as an introspective letter to Bill Watterson with screenwriting-like prompts identifying the speaker, Calvin explores a plethora of tough questions including why bad things happen to good people and the concepts of truth and reality. It also has an element of romance: Susie comes along for the dangerous trek, but Calvin continually wonders whether or not she is real or a hallucination, and whether or not he can give in to his feelings for her. Teens will ask themselves the same questions, as Leavitt skillfully crafts dialogue with just enough ambiguity to keep them guessing.  


Martine Leavitt
Groundwood Books
ISBN 13: 978-1-55498-720-7

Jen Bailey
Jen Bailey Jen Bailey is an Ontario-certified teacher who holds an MFA in Writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She works for the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council. Jen’s other book reviews have appeared in Quill & Quire and Canadian Children’s Book News.

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