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Sunday, February 2, 2020

Book Review: Chirp by Kate Messner

Mia has moved back to Vermont from Boston. It's the beginning of summer which is not the best time to make new friends but her grandmother lives in town, and her mother makes her sign up for a couple of summer camps. Everyone assumes she'll sign up for gymnastics camp. But she's's done with gymnastics. After breaking her arm badly last year, requiring surgery, she's finished. Plus, there was her creepy assistant coach she'd rather forget.

So instead she signs up for a Makers camp that's participating in a Shark Tank-type of entrepreneur competition at the end of summer, and on the spur of the moment, an American Gladiator camp that she immediately regrets. Plus she'll be helping her grandmother with her cricket farm! Mia will have plenty to keep her busy.

Everything soon ties together. The entrepreneur project she decides to work on is her grandmother's company. And at the gladiator camp, while she can't do most of the activities which she's either too weak for, or which remind her too much of gymnastics, she does work on strengthening her arm. Even if all she's doing is hanging from a bar for 10 seconds, she's still building muscle and growing stronger. Soon she figures out her grandmother's cricket farm is being vandalized and having too many weird problems to be coincidences--it must be sabotage! Inspired by old classic teen mystery novels, she and her new friends investigate.

There's a lot going on here, but it absolutely does all come together, and the constant action keeps the story moving forward briskly. The mystery element kept me guessing for a while. I liked her new friends. You can probably already guess that her old assistant coach in Boston is a Problem. He didn't abuse her, but he made her very uncomfortable, and he was inappropriate. There's also a boy in the Makers camp who's a creep and a future lech, but over the course of the novel, multiple people, mostly his peers, call him out on his behavior and put him in his place, and by the end he's started to see he can behave better and then the other kids will like him more. The other kids are very diverse (which, given this is set in Vermont, which is in actuality the whitest state in the country, isn't very realistic, but I still appreciate the effort). And the cricket farm was a fascinating thing I was unfamiliar with and really appreciated learning about, even if I'm never, ever going to eat a cricket. But good for others who do! It's a great protein source and really good for the environment.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

This book is published by Bloomsbury, which is distributed by Macmillan, my employer.

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