Wednesday, June 28, 2023

The Braid Girls

Winston, Sherri. The Braid Girls
June 13, 2023 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Maggie and Deija are best friends. While Maggie has a father  and mother who are around to support her and her younger brother Taz (who likes to act like a robot), Daija's mother Kiki is raising her without as much involvement from her father. Deija is very interested in ballet, and knows that she will have to come up with money for private lessons on her own if she hopes to do well enough to make the cuts for an upcoming show. She has a plan to braid hair, which she and Maggie do very well, and raise the money over the summer. When Maggie gets a surprising new family member, Deija is jealous and is cautious about accepting her. Maggie's father had been in the navy and was in a relationship with Clover before he met Maggie's mom, and Callie is Clover and the father's daughter. Clover never told him about his child, but when she passes away, Callie's relatives contact him. Maggie's mother is understanding, and so Callie moves in. Maggie is welcoming, clearing out space in her room, and willing to hang out with her new sister. Deija is not at all happy when Callie comes to the summer camp where she and Maggie are supposed to be craft counselors. It makes perfect sense that they will try to get the children at the camp to get their hair braided after the camp is over, and earn money that way. Callie is also a talented braider, as well as a jewelry artist, and is more than happy to help. When the girls in charge of the Paradise Camp start to poach the girls' clients, they are not happy, especially since their braiding skills are substandard, and Lorilee and Angela are plain mean. With fellow counselor Keith's help, they manage to get some incriminating video of the Paradise Camp girls being rough with their customers' hair and post them on social media, where they go viral. There are some relationship hitches with Maggie, Deija, and Callie, but try to work through them. When they hit a particularly rough patch, will they be able to find a way to stay friends?
Strengths: I loved the supportive extended family, and the fact that there are family activities like going out for ice cream and having picnics portrayed. There are not enough of those in some middle grade books. The issue with Callie is addressed in a very age appropriate fashion, and it was nice that Maggie was very accepting of Callie, and that Callie, while she missed her mother, was glad to get to know her father and have a new family. The friend drama is completely on point; three can be a crowd in middle grade friendships. The addition of Keith as a light romantic interest for Maggie is fun. I would think that a lot of tweens are looking to earn money for various reasons, even though that is harder to do than it was when I was twelve and we were allowed to babysit infants for a dollar an hour!
Weaknesses: I never really felt that Deija was all that interested in ballet, and it seemed unlikely that the summer camp would be pleased with the girls trying to make money off campers; $25-$40 for hair styles seems a bit expensive. 
What I really think: This is a good choice for readers who liked McDonald's Twists and Turns or Boles' Little Divas (that has a somewhat similar cover!), or who like Strong's other titles like President of the Whole Fifth Grade or Lotus Bloom and the Afro Revolution

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