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Callie's Contest of Courage Review by Cristi Schwamb

Jan May
New Millennium Books

Recently I’ve been trying to help my nine-year-old daughter identify more deeply with the main characters of the books we read by identifying things she might have in common with the character. As I think about the children’s books I’ve read over the years, I realize that I haven’t read many where the primary characters are strong Christians. I also don’t think I’ve ever found a children’s book with the main characters are a military family. Callie’s Contest of Courage, by Jan May, tells the story of a family relying on God to see them through the challenges they face when their father deploys overseas.

Callie Fleming is an eleven year old girl with big plans for her summer in California. She was looking forward to caring for a baby seal at the Wildlife Rescue Mission and to participating in the Marine Kids Internship there. She was also looking forward to her dad’s help to take the perfect nature picture for the “I Love Nature” contest so that she could win a junior internship at the zoo. Unfortunately, all of those plans changed when her dad deployed overseas and the family went to stay with family in Illinois.

Throughout the book, the Fleming family refers back to the story of David and Goliath that they read the night before Callie’s dad deployed. Callie learns to see the struggles she faces during the deployment as tests of courage, similar to the way David struggled to save his sheep from a lion years before God called him to face Goliath. At one point, Callie uses her knowledge of animals and nature to react wisely and help her brother and mother when a wild bear got a little too close during a stop at a park on their cross-country road trip. Later she faces some of the normal struggles for any girl—a visit to the cousins she’s dubbed the “twins of mischief,” an accident which breaks her dad’s camera, and the struggle to forgive a new friend. During all these stressful times, the Flemings repeat the verses that they’ve chosen to pray over their dad while he’s away and look for ways that God is still at work in the world around them.

Callie’s Contest of Courage is part of the New Millennium Girls book series and is recommended for ages 8-12. It was especially meaningful for me to read it to Lauren because we’re a military family with recent deployment experience. Other military families might want to pre-read the last chapter of the book to be certain that they’re okay with the part where Callie’s dad talks about the night when bullets were whizzing past him. This book doesn’t necessarily talk a lot about military life in general, but it does give non-military families a peek into the stresses that a family faces during a deployment.

-Product review by Cristi Schwamb, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, March, 2016