Cover Image: Sir Callie and the Champions of Helston

Sir Callie and the Champions of Helston

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Member Reviews

Definitely read the trigger warnings/authors note at the beginning of the book before reading. I went into it expecting a light hearted tale in medieval fantasy with friends who go on adventures together. While that is true a bulk of the book deals with real life issues that the face LBGT+ community as well as parental/power abuse. A title that is certainly needed and issues that need to be talked about. The main characters are relatable and it will be interesting to see where this series goes after dealing with many hard issues in the first one!
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I knew I wanted to read this book the minute that I heard about it at ALA this past summer. Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Kids for the digital review copy. 

Three cheers for Callie and their stubborn streak! While sometimes incredibly frustrating due to the behaviors of Lord Peran and the silent submission of the royal women, this was a powerful message about being yourself regardless of what others say. The most important message that I got is that repressing a side of yourself to fit in, be it your gender or magical abilities, only hurts you in the end. You can keep pushing down, but one day you are going to burst. I can’t wait to read more about this exciting group of kids and the family that they are creating.
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This was what I was hoping for based on the cover, it was what I was hoping for. The characters worked for the time-period and did what I expected. The story was what I was hoping for and really enjoyed the historical elements and the adventure elements. Overall it was a really fun read and I look forward to reading more from Esme Symes-Smith.

"Elowen’s right—the battle on the other side of the bridge isn’t the only one that needs fighting, the enemy not just a dragon watching from the shadows. It’s right here, living in the palace, waging its own war unchecked because no one’s willing or brave enough to pay attention and do the tough job of calling it out."
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tl;dr
A thoughtful and complex story featuring a likable non-binary protagonist and a great supporting cast. The amount of prejudice the MC has to face is really stressful to read.

About
Only girls do magic. Only boys can be knights. Callie has never thought of themselves as a girl or a boy, but their dream to become a knight someday is blocked by the fact that everyone else sees Callie as a girl. But Callie's determined to prove themselves, and an invitation to the royal capital might be the chance they need to do so.

Thoughts
This is a tough one to review. I typically try to highlight things I enjoyed versus parts that weren't for me, but it was hard for me to enjoy this. To be clear, this is a very good book. Callie's struggles are raw and relatable, and my heart broke for them more than once. The other kids are unique and complex and beautiful, and it was great to see genuine thoughtfulness centered on the discussion of family and abuse, self-loathing, and how messy love can be. But dang, reading this was tough. Callie is misgendered regularly, on purpose, and with hurtful intent. Gender roles in this world are so rigid and pithy that even our heroic Callie starts out with a very dim view of women. Trans readers who have been down this path in real life already might find re-treading this ground to be tiresome. That being said, I think this book would have been perfect for me when I was younger, and I think it will resonate with any young reader looking for a story about friends, family, and adventure.
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A great book in the style of Tamora Pierce  and Mercedes Lackey for the younger set.  Callie is firm in their understanding of who they are. If only the rest of the "world" would just open their eyes.  Her father, the greatest knight of the kingdom, is the supportive parent here which is great to see as he does his best to let them, Callie, be who they are meant to be.  There is sword fighting, magic, and friendships of all sorts in this delightful book for middle grades.
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Sir Callie and the Champions of Helston tells the tale of a young, non-binary child living in a medieval fantasy world with their biological father, a former knight, and their stepfather, a magical outcast. One day, Callie’s dad is summoned back to the capital city, to train a young prince who is struggling to live up to his potential. Callie leaps at the chance to go and train with real knights. It’s everything they’ve ever dreamed of. Or is it? Just before they arrive in town, Callie is groomed by the evil, magical, witch) but she is saved at the last minute from making a tragically bad choice. When Callie and her dad arrive in Helston, nothing goes as planned. The intolerant great and powerful see a girl when they look at Callie and she’s forced to move in with the other young girls and subjected to traditional gender roles for the first time since her early childhood. But Callie refuses to accept this fate and hatches a plan (and then several more plans when it inevitably fails) to get her way and prove she is worthy of knighthood once and for all. I absolutely adored every moment of this book. There is not one single thing I would change. The metaphors, the pacing, the language...beautiful! This fantastic middle grade fantasy romp is perfect for fans of Squire by Sara Alfageeh or Play Like a Girl by Misty Wilson.
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While it's not the first nonbinary protagonist in middle grade fantasy (and isn't that a sentence!) but it is the first one put out by a large or mainstream publisher. So that's pretty cool! Helston is a well established world, information being given to the reader and to Callie as it becomes relevant; the reader is never more confused than Callie is, and outside of all that, the world is an interesting and fun one. 

This book is stressful to read, as a trans person. Callie is continuously misgendered and not defended, does not have the chance to correct anyone and is rarely defended. It's realistic, but a bit panic inducing, and probably will be even more so for young trans readers looking to see themselves. Escapism ought to balance with realism; it makes sense that Callie would struggle against discrimination and not face a world free of prejudice; this will be relatable to young readers and could potentially bolster them against their own negative experiences, but Callie experiences relief only in times with their friends, who still don't always understand the differences between resisting typical gender roles for women, which are oppressive and awful in Helston, and just not being a girl. I know Callie is nonbinary, the text knows Callie is nonbinary, the promotional material and blurb know, but a reader who isn't aware of all that going in might come out a little confused about who Callie actually is.

When not anxiety-inducing and all too real, this is a wonderful story about change and resistance and little boys named Willow, and loving people exactly how they are and not allowing for hatred and not having to forgive your abuser, and found family and embracing who you are, and I can see it working very well as a guided reading experience in a book club, at bedtime, in a classroom, with a discussion question sheet at the end... or with a sequel where Callie unabashedly gets to scream their pronouns from the highest tower of the castle.
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I recieved an eARC so I could read and review this book. Thank you for the opportunity.

Callie isn'r comfortable with being a girl. Or with magic. Or with being a boy, either. They/Them fits, and so does training for knighthood with their dad and his partner, Neil. But when their dad is recalled to the capitol. Helston, to train the young king, Callie discovers that they aren't alone in feeling uncomfortable with strict roles, and that changes need to be made.

This is a sweet story for middle grade readers who like fantasy and sometimes feel they don't fit in, While Callie's gender, and discomfort with being percieved as a girl, is a part of the story, the book also does a great job of demonstrating that it is possible to be gender non-conforming in some things and not change your name or pronouns, and that those differences that make people unique are important. 

The one thing I was a bit uncomfortable with was the placing of the king's sister as being out of control, non-conforming, and...well, bad or negative. In some ways, this justified her treatment by those in power. I would like to see this reconciled in future books. And I do feel this book would be a good start to a series,
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10/10!
thank you to netgalley and random house children's publisher for the arc!
i loved this book! it's a middle grade fantasy book about a non-binary kid who wants to be a squire, but lives in a gendered world where women use magic and men are knights. When their dad, the past knight of the previous king, is summoned back to helston to train the prince, Callie joins him in hopes of becoming a squire, but is faced with a world that does not look kindly on those who are different.
this book was fun to read, had great writing, and compelling and realistic characters! i loved everything about it and cannot wait for the second one!
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Callie dreams of one day becoming a knight and when their dad is called back to Helston help train the train the prince, sees it as a perfect opportunity to prove themselves! But as Callie already knows, the world doesn't look kindly on difference, and Helston is no exception, but they hardly let that stop them from trying to start making changes.

I absolutely adored this book and I cannot wait for it to be released so I can buy it and make everyone I know read it! I love that we're getting more and more books in middle grade about non-binary/gender non-conforming kids, it's representation that I would have loved as a child and brings me so much joy to read now. To also have the idea presented that it's not the family you're born with, but the family you choose and the family that loves you for you, I think that's so important for kids to read too.

All of the kids were wonderful characters and none of them were how you expected them to be, or how Callie does either. Also the sheer amount of righteous rage that's packed into 12 year old Callie was so much fun to read. Those infuriating moments that happen to kids in books and you wish you could just pop into the book and yell on their behalf? Callie does that all on her own, for herself and for her friends. 

Thank you to NetGalley and  Random House and Labyrinth Road for making this available in exchange for an honest review!
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what I would've given to be able to read this growing up!!

Callie is an amazing protagonist. they are allowed to make silly mistakes and apologize for them; their character growth is lovely to see. the found family was so good and I loved watching the characters learn to stick up for each other! I can just see this being an amazing rec for middle grade kids and I'm excited to be able to recommend it.

the pacing is fun but do warn readers that this is the first book in a theoretical series. the ending isn't a cliffhanger or anything but it definitely does not tie all the story lines in a neat bow at the end.

thank you to NetGalley for the arc!
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Cannot wait for a sequel! Everything was done so well here. Fantastic characters, fantastic themes, fantastic story. I like the message that not everything is black and white, right and wrong, and that there's complexities to every problem and to every person. I'm also so so happy to be seeing more and more LGBTQ+ characters in middle grade fiction, and especially genderqueer characters.
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A beautiful story to read during pride month. Everyone who has ever felt different or told they were different needs to read this. Had me in tears toward the end.
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Excited to introduce this one to my own child in the next year or two. Tackles gender roles in the framework of a magical society and follows Callie as they find their way.
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This book is a heartfelt love letter to fantasy loving children, both queer and not. Age appropriate heroics and heartbreak dominate, but in a way that rings true even to an adult reader. The titular Callie is a wonderfully bold kid, despite the world that wants to beat them down. The author's prose, while at an appropriate reading level, does not suffer from condescending simplicity but instead is intelligent and fun to read. These two facts create a fun to read narration, and I deeply enjoyed reading about the setting and characters through Callie's eyes.  This book is a pretty delightful fantasy novel, one that I will certainly add to the repertoire of books I encourage for this age range as queer and diverse alternatives to a famous transphobe's popular work.
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Sir Callie and the Champions of Helston belongs in the hand of every middle grade reader who loves medieval vibes, magic, and empowerment! Sir Callie follows aspiring-knight Callie, a nonbinary teen who prefers wielding a sword to minding, Helston-imposed gender norms.

When Callie's Papa is summoned by the Prince's regent, the pair travel to Helston proper. Callie expects their dreams to be fulfilled, only to find them dashed by rigidity and hierarchy. Callie must lean on their instincts and unlikely allies to find their way and defeat evil.
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I cannot remember the last time I came across a MG novel with as much heart and love poured into it as this one. I literally raced through it in one afternoon because my heart NEEDED it. Callie is such a strong and vibrant character—you feel what they feel, and everything through their perspective is so well rendered it’s completely believable. This is a story that is a masterwork of MG fantasy craft. The villains aren’t caricatures even as they represent and demonstrate some of the worst elements of our own world’s politicians and social constructions, and seeing these kids each struggle with the issues of finding a place for themselves, being true to who they are and learning that lessening yourself to please someone else is never the answer brought tears to my eyes—no easy feat with books. I wholeheartedly and LOUDLY recommend that everyone read this book, child or adult, and libraries should snatch it up for queer kids everywhere!
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Beautifully written book about a transgender teen who wishes to become a knight. The power and strength the Callie has can be inspiring to middle school aged teens struggling with their identity.
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Thank you, Labyrinth Road, for allowing me to read Sir Callie and the Champions of Helston early!

This book is everything I wish I could have offered to so many children who were questioning their identity. I am so grateful to all the people who championed this book, starting from its author, Esme Symes-Smith who realised that they needed to give non-binary children a story for them. Sir Callie and the Champions of Helston is a wonderful middle grade novel with action and love aplenty; such a delightful start to an epic series I hope will never end.
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This book!! Is everything!! There are so few middle grade fantasy novels centering queer characters, and I think this is the first time I've ever read one that centers a non-binary character. The story also just has so much heart, and the well-developed characters are given the space to grow into themselves as they find their strength and their voices. The author nails the middle grade tone perfectly, and the balance between plot and character development is spot-on. I seriously cannot recommend this book enough--I hope it is put in every middle school library!
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