TALA can't wait to be thirteen; then no one better tell her what to do. Her nosey neighbor is always checking up on her, and now the Welfare Officer is knocking on her door again and her father isn't home to answer. Tala only has a few hours to find her missing father before she and her brother, DASON, get placed in a foster home.
Culloo is the perfect book for a middle school or younger audience but has aspects that are enjoyable to all ages. Murielle Cyr incorporates suspense and action within her story to captivate her readers and ultimately show Tala, the main character, becoming a young women.
Culloo explores the coming of age process in young Tala and her upcoming thirteenth birthday. The adventures and events she endures to ensure the safe return of her father are representative of Tala growing up. She is shown as a responsible daughter who takes care of her brother, but in these adventures she shows courage and passion for her family.
Tala referred to her parents on a first name basis and I felt this showed the disconnect within her family. It is clear that her father loves his children, but shown is also the distance he places between them. Throughout their adventure, Tala and her bother become closer but more importantly, their father becomes closer to his children. This was an interesting family dynamic that emerged within the story.
Cyr deals with the absence of a mother within Culloo. Anjij, the children’s mother, was killed in an accident prior to the story. Cyr explores the idea of Tala growing up without her mother. This is a helpful concept for children who also find themselves in this position. She explains that their mother is everywhere and everything around them. Anjij can be thought of as the supernatural within the story that aids the children in finding their father.
My favorite part of the entire book was the fantastical element. I loved how the fantastic was just barely brushed into the pages of Cyr’s book. Just enough so the audience would notice it, but not enough to truly know if the magical element in her book really does exist. I thought the Native American influences paired well with the fantastical element and found that to be the most intriguing aspect. Is the fantastic spirits of ancestors past or actually the Stone People? Cyr leaves it up for interpretation.
Generally, I really enjoyed this story and feel that it is best suited for elementary to middle school level children. I believe that while it is enjoyable to young adults and adults, it has more to offer in terms of themes and lessons to those who are younger. The exploration of the passing of a family member and becoming an adult have useful teachings to children of a younger age dealing with similar problems.
Reviewed by Rachel Keane
Publication date: 7/15/2013