Calico Girl

Calico Girl

For Ages: 8 - 12
“Nolen’s tender story of the Wilcomb family’s losses and aspirations will resonate. At once heartbreaking and uplifting, a gentle, lyrical story of a determined black girl’s journey toward freedom during the Civil War.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Jerdine Nolen’s Calico Girl waves fabrics of freedom in every forward step of her undaunted heroine’s journey. Nolen’s deftly crafted scholarship offers a poignant and hopeful glimpse at the past for today’s curious readers.” —Rita Williams-Garcia, Newbery Honor author

From the award-winning author of Eliza’s Freedom Road comes the powerful tale of a slave girl’s triumphant journey to freedom with her family during the Civil War.

Twelve-year-old Callie Wilcomb and her family are slaves, and the Civil War gives them hope that freedom may be on the horizon. On May 23, 1861, the State of Virginia ratified their vote to secede from the Union. In Virginia, a window was opened where the laws of the land no longer applied. Because of the Contraband Law, slaves no longer had to be returned to their owners, granting them a measure of protection and safety. With the possibility of Callie and her family escaping their bonds forever, Callie is eager to learn and become educated and hopes to teach others one day. Through hardship and loss—with love and strong family ties—Callie proves that freedom is in her stars.
  • Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books | 
  • 192 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781481459815 | 
  • February 2017 | 
  • Grades 3 - 7
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Reading Group Guide

A Reading Group Guide to

Calico Girl

By Jerdine Nolen

About the Book

The time: 1861. The place: Virginia. Based on true accounts of the Civil War, Calico Girl tells the story of twelve-year-old Callie Wilcomb, her father, her stepmother, and her baby brother; the family are slaves at Belle Hill Farm. After three runaway slaves are offered refuge at the Union outpost Fort Monroe, Callie and her family decide to leave the farm and join other slaves seeking freedom. There, Callie’s life begins anew; she starts school and meets an inspirational teacher who shows her that she has a say over her life and freedom. The courage, strength, and humanity that Callie and her family display will inspire readers to delve more deeply into this important aspect of American history.

Discussion Questions

1. Reread the Author’s Note, where Jerdine Nolen explains why she wanted to write a story that addressed issues surrounding slavery. She writes, “What draws me in is wondering and imagining how one particular event impacted an individual or family. I have wondered about this for a long time: What did it feel like to finally be free?” Discuss how Nolen uses details to help the reader better understand what it was like to be a slave and what freedom finally felt like for Callie and her family.

2. Callie must endure Suse’s delight in watching the slave s see more

More Books from this Author

Eliza's Freedom Road
Irene's Wish
Hewitt Anderson's Great Big Life
Plantzilla Goes to Camp

About the Author

Jerdine Nolen
Nancy Kavanagh O'Neill

Jerdine Nolen

Jerdine Nolen is the beloved author of many award-winning books, including Big Jabe, Thunder Rose (a Coretta Scott King Illlustrator Honor Book), and Hewitt Anderson’s Great Big Life (a Bank Street Best Book of the Year), all illustrated by Kadir Nelson. She is also the author of Eliza’s Freedom Road, illustrated by Shadra Strickland, which was an ALA/YALSA Best Fiction Nominee for Young Adults; Raising Dragons, illustrated by Elise Primavera, which received the Christopher Award; and Harvey Potter’s Balloon Farm, illustrated by Mark Buehner, which won the Kentucky Bluegrass Award. Her other books include Plantizilla, illustrated by David Catrow, which was a BOOKSENSE 76 Selection, and Irene’s Wish, illustrated by A.G. Ford, which Kirkus Reviews called “delightful and memorable” in a starred review. Ms. Nolen is an educator and lives in Ellicott City, Maryland.

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