Monday, February 03, 2020

MMGM- Chirp

February marks the 10th anniversary of Boys Read Pink and my 14th Blogiversary (on 2/16).

I've always tried to do two things; diversify my collection (my first posts cover finding new books to fill in gaps in my array of African American books in the library I inherited in 2002) and to find books that boys would enjoy reading. (Before you get angry about "all books are for all children, please read this SLJ article.)

The world has changed in fourteen years. It has become very mean. Twitter has allowed people to say hateful things without thinking, and to slam people without examining their motives.

As an old, middle class white woman in a world where "well-meaning" is used perjoratively, I am hesitant to say anything about anything these days. I try my best. I read as many books as I can, try to engage and enlighten my students, and hope that my efforts at both can help fellow teachers and librarians. 

It would be nice to celebrate. I would like to feel that my efforts over the last fourteen years have been positive. Instead, I'm typing this at 6 a.m. in tears, worrying that if I post about Boys Read Pink, which is very dear to my heart for a number of reasons, people will attack me. Also, this fear pretty much sums up my feelings about the majority of my interactions in the Kidlitosphere lately. 

Celebrate with me if you want. If you can't say anything nice, please don't say anything at all.

Messner, Kate. Chirp
February 4th 2020 by Bloomsbury Children's Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Mia's family moves from Boston back to Vermont, and she's happy to be back near her grandmother, who has a business raising crickets to sell for food. Her parents are both busy, so they make Mia go to two summer camps-- one is Launch camp, which she hopes will help with her grandmother's business, and the other is Warrior Camp, which Mia is glad is NOT gymnastics, since she had a troubling experience in Boston and is also recovering from a badly broken arm. Things are not going well with the crickets, and she and her new friend Clover investigate why sea gulls are getting in, beetles show up in the feed, fruit flies infest the area, and the temperature controls are sabotaged. Through the Launch camp, Mia gets a lot of good ideas, and goes to businesses in the small town to try to get them interested in crickets as food, to some success-- even the mayor posts pictures of herself eating the crickets! Behind all of this activity, however, Mia is harboring a secret about uncomfortable experiences she had at gymnastics back in Boston; she manages to talk to a visiting women entrepreneur about them, and tells her parents when her young cousin is considering going to the same gym. The mystery of the sabotage is also uncovered, and her grandmother's business manages not only to survive but to thrive with the help of interested investors.
Strengths: Messner does two things very well-- strong, supportive and engaged families, and small town settings. Add to that interesting characters who are involved in doing things, and her books are the gold standard for middle grade fiction. This is an interesting mystery that has elements of friend drama, and will go over well with students. The inclusion of #metoo topics will be well received by adults in the book community.
Weaknesses: It was a bit hard to believe that an adult would go to such lengths to sabotage someone's business, but it makes for a compelling story.
What I really think: Will definitely purchase, as this author is popular in my library.

Ms. Yingling


  1. I am sorry for those who believe they should attack you, Karen. I value your opinions on books, am no longer teaching, but often pass your recommendations to former colleagues. Thank you for your honest views & Happy Blogiversary, too! (I have Chirp coming from my library!)

  2. Oh, Karen, I'm so sorry that you've come to feel this way about posting (the risk of being attacked). I LOVE your blog, find it useful, and appreciate your efforts to connect kids of all sorts of different backgrounds and interests with books. I especially respect your efforts for boys, because it is harder for them to find books that engage them. I will say that changes in the culture of the Kidlitosphere (especially in YA circles) have been a contributing factor in my own decision to stop reviewing altogether. I wish we lived closer and could talk in person.

  3. Anonymous11:54 AM EST

    I must tell you: In the last few months in an effort to better know the industry, I've signed up for every kidlit blog I could find. I probably get a dozen in my inbox each day, and out of all of them, yours is one of my tip-top favorites! It's one that I always look forward to reading. You sum up books so succinctly, and I love your "Strengths/Weaknesses/What I Really Think" format. And as for your take on boys books - you have very much changed my habits. I hadn't realized that I'd been guilty of handing boys only books with male main characters, until you (and a few others) had me noticing it. All this to say: Happy Blog Birthday, and please do keep going! I can't imagine who would ever attack you, but your work is being read and very much appreciated, and you are making a difference.

  4. I have liked everything I've read by Kate Messner, so I will be looking for this one. I have never heard of Boys Read Pink, but it sounds like something I would support.

  5. Of course I'll celebrate with you! You've been a good friend and your blog has been the first one I read each day for many, many years. No only do you give great recommendations (I can't possibly list all the books I've read because you liked them) but you're also a beacon of decency and common sense in a world fast losing sight of both. Keep up the good work and, by all means, keep those eight-grade boys in on your evil plan!

  6. I really enjoyed Chirp this last week and this is will resonate with so many readers. I also agree on your "weakness" comment. It seemed unlikely, but made for a fun story. Karen, I clicked over to read your Boys Read Pink article and I loved it so much. I left a comment, but as soon as I posted it, I got a message that it was flagged as SPAM. Not sure what happened there, but hopefully they'll eventually fish it out and dust it off. But I was curious: is Boys Read Pink a regional effort, or is it bigger? I really liked the idea and am now wanting to explore lists to encourage broadening our focus. On a personal note, it hurts my heart to hear of how you were hurting as your wrote this blog post. I, too, have worried about saying anything and anything for fear of upsetting people and starting an avalanche of angry online discussion (for which I haven't the time to moderate). But I can say with a high level of certainty that your last 14 years have made a deep impact -- not only in your local community, but in the large kidlitosphere. Thank you for your endurance through it all!

  7. In this world you can never please everybody. I once had a dad demand I stop giving his son "girl" books to read. I told him we have a wide selection of required reading and it would be no different in any other class. He soon went on some other rant taking more of the principal's time than my own. I was never going to win him over.
    The same goes true with social media and life with a blog. Be assured that those that are avid supporters of what you have accomplished are larger than the nay-sayers. We just don't take the time to say thank you enough. Keep on doing the great things you do. The haters eventually go away but your band of followers will always be in your parade.

  8. I know what you mean about being hesitant about saying too much about anything. We're probably the same generation, when things were less complex.

    I love everything Kate Messner writes, and this book sounds like an intriguing mystery. But crickets? People eat crickets? Thanks for your thoughtful review, as always!

  9. Thank you for the link to the article, it was an interesting read. It's amazing how many stereotypes are ingrained into kids way before they step inside a school.
    Agree with the Twitter comments. I've typed many a post to just delete it because I didn't want to deal with the negative parts.
    And I really like the strengths and weaknesses parts of your reviews. They are helpful!

  10. Others here have already spoken to the climate of fear. Like them, I have always appreciated your take on books. I've also been inspired by your Boys Read Pink month. I loved the article in SLJ.

  11. You're the second blog that mentioned Chirp, and I know it is getting a lot of praise; I cannot wait to read it :)

    Happy reading this week!

  12. Chirp looks like a book my daughter would enjoy. Thanks for sharing.

  13. I agree with what others have posted here. There is a lot of negativity, but hopefully you won't let it stop you as you have much to offer here. Thanks for your post, I also really enjoyed Chirp.

  14. Feeling thankful for your blog. Don’t think you need to take up the ukulele!

  15. Yeah, I won't even look at twitter, too scary for me! Your blog has always been my go-to for middle school. This year I'm focusing on middle school books for our young adult collection, so I'll be saving all the links!