Caldwell, V.M. 1956-
Caldwell, V.M. 1956-
Born 1956; children: two sons (adopted).
Educator and writer. Taught science for fifteen years.
Milkweed Prize for children's literature, 1999, for The Ocean Within.
The Ocean Within, illustrated by Erica Magnus, Milkweed Editions (Minneapolis, MN), 1999.
Tides, illustrated by Erica Magnus, Milkweed Editions (Minneapolis, MN), 2001.
Runt, Milkweed Editions (Minneapolis, MN), 2006.
In her first young adult novel, The Ocean Within, V.M. Caldwell tells the story of eleven-year-old Elizabeth, a foster child who ends up being adopted by the Sheridan family, the third family with which Elizabeth has lived since her parents died five years earlier. The novel revolves around the eccentric and boisterous Sheridan family's attempt to make Elizabeth truly feel at home during their annual family vacation at a grandmother's beachfront home. John Peters, writing in Booklist, commented that the author presents a look at a child "who has either forgotten or never learned how to be part of a family." Calling the novel "insightful," a Publishers Weekly contributor also wrote that Elizabeth's "discomfort and yearning to belong somewhere will be strongly felt."
In Tides, Caldwell's sequel to The Ocean Within, Elizabeth has been adopted by the Sheridans for a year and is becoming more at ease living with the family. She and the family once again vacation at the ocean where Elizabeth copes with her fears, including a terror of the water. In addition, the Sheridans face their own crisis as their cousin Adam, who becomes depressed over the death of two young friends in a car accident, seems headed for trouble. "The story is told with a fine-tuned empathy for the main characters," wrote Farida S. Dowler in the School Library Journal. GraceAnne A. DeCandido, writing in Booklist, noted that "readers longing to know more about Elizabeth will find the answers here." Several reviewers also commented on the author's ability to realistically portray family life and a youngster's angst. "One thing I especially liked about Tides was that the situations in the story were very believable," wrote Nell Elliote in Stone Soup. "Often the events in a story are possible, but not probable. In Tides, the characters handle their problems in ways that people might handle their problems in reality."
Thirteen-year-old Robert Remick takes the center stage in Runt. Following the death of his mother and rejection by his aunts, who nevertheless take in Robert's three sisters, Robert (nicknamed Runt) finds himself living in a trailer with an older sister named Helen and her unlikable boyfriend Cole. A loner who avoids school at all costs, Runt eventually makes friends with Mitch, a wheelchair-bound boy dying of cancer. Marie Orlando, writing in the School Library Journal, noted that the "readers will respond to the plight of two desperate boys and the people who make a difference in their lives." A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that "the characterizations are strong, with Runt's inarticulate numbness … coming through most clearly."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 1, 1999, John Peters, review of The Ocean Within, p. 131; April 15, 2001, Graceanne A. DeCandido, review of Tides, p. 1549.
Publishers Weekly, August 30, 1999, review of The Ocean Within, p. 85; March 27, 2006, review of Runt, p. 59.
School Library Journal, August 1, 2001, Farida S. Dowler, review of Tides, p. 176; July 1, 2006, Marie Orlando, review of Runt, p. 97.
Stone Soup, July 1, 2002, Nell Elliote, review of Tides, p. 38.