Call Me Hope
by Gretchen Olson
Little, Brown, & Co., NY 2007
In this novel, twelve-year-old Hope lives with a verbally abusive mother. Her older brother, Tyler, is sometimes helpful and defends Hope on occasion. Worked into the plot are the reading of The Diary of Anne Frank and viewing the film Life is Beautiful. With these learning experiences, Hope is able to devise a point system to make her life more bearable. She creates a safe space in her closet. She looks forward to a week of Outdoor School. But…
Enter the adults. Her social studies teacher, Mr. Hudson, is aware that Hope is struggling at home. The school counselor knows that Hope’s relationship with her mother is painful. Hope makes friends with the owners of a second hand store, who also are aware that Hope has problems at home.
All of these members of Hope’s community step in to assist Hope, so that she can attend Outdoor School. And guess what? Hope’s mother sees the error of her ways and begins to reform.
Verbal abuse is a real issue for children. As Olson’s book points out, the victims may not be aware that what they live with is abuse. Fortunately, Hope has a school community that is attentive and responsive.
I came from a pair of loving parents who were educated and whose jobs involved early childhood education. And yet I can still hear my father’s irritated, harsh voice saying, “What is the matter with you?” Abuse? Hmm…maybe not. But it stuck.
Perhaps the first step is identifying the situation as abusive. Hope is a smart sixth grader and she has help. Who will help the others?
*Olson offers educational resources at the end of the novel