Saturday, April 13, 2019

Meena Meets Her Match

Manternach, Karla. Meena Meets Her Match
January 29th 2019 by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Meena is an artistic, exuberant elementary school student who has a great, supportive family, kindergarten sister Rosie, and cousin Eli who is in her class at school. Ever since winter break, though, her best friend Sofía has been a bit cold to her, and she's not sure why. This worry is soon eclipsed by the increasingly weird feelings Meena has-- she blacks out and scribbles on her assignment in school, she zones out with her cousin, and eventually has a seizure at home in the kitchen. When she comes to, she is in the hospital, and tests need to be run. Back at home, her parents are overly concerned and don't want her to do anything unaccompanied until they find out more about her condition. Meena is concerned, but tries to channel her worry into making the best Valentine box in her class, using found candy wrappers and other objects. More tests and doctor's appointments are in the works, and an X-Ray reveals a spot in Meena's brain. This is certainly scary, although the doctor doesn't think it is too serious, but orders an MRI. Meena's worry is compounded by escalating fighting with Sofía and concern about Valentine's Day, and her behavior is not the best as she tries to deal with these things. Eventually, the doctor decides that her seizures might respond to medication, and she feels relieved to be able to form a new reality.
Strengths: There are very few books about children dealing with chronic but not life threatening health problems, and this book, based on the author's experience with her own daughter, brilliantly portrayed the process of trying to diagnose a seizure disorder. The problems with friends, the temper, the sadness-- all are realistically done. Like Belford's Another D for Deedee, or the Morrises' Mustaches for Maddie, it's an entertaining book that also will help young readers be empathetic about the plights of others.
Weaknesses: Meena is in about third or fourth grade, and everything about her seems really young to the middle school mind. The way she's fighting with her friend, her Valentine's box, the things she does in school, even how she gets along with her parents. This is not really a weakness, but it makes it not quite right for my students.
What I really think: I think I'll pass on this, but I'd love to see one with a more middle school focus!

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