- Chirp by Kate Messner
Messner, Kate Chirp. Bloomsbury, 2020 [240p] Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-5476-0281-0 $16.99 E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-5476-0282-7 $11.89 Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 5-7
Preteen Mia is happy when her family moves back to Vermont to help with her grandmother's business of raising crickets for food. Though she's giving gymnastics a wide berth after an injury, she's soon making friends in various other summer activities, and when it looks like somebody might be trying to sabotage Gram's business, Mia and new pals Clover and Anna turn detective to solve the mystery. Meanwhile, Mia begins to explore her feelings about her gymnastics experience and admit to herself that it wasn't the injury but the predatory behavior of the assistant coach that poisoned the sport for her. The story namechecks Nancy Drew and there's definitely a Stratemeyer Syndicate flavor to the mystery, and savvy readers may spot the red herring and ultimate culprit early on but enjoy it no less for that. More impactful, however, is the book's treatment of Mia's abuse at the hands of her gym coach and its broader context—women ranging from Mia's mother to the entrepreneur she admires mention their own harassment experiences, so it's increasingly clear to Mia that this is not an isolated personal situation. The book is awkwardly self-contradictory between the "don't tell the adults" message of the sleuthing (including the girls' breaking in and bugging places) and the "tell the adults" message of Mia's experience with her coach, but ultimately the narrative lands solidly on "she deserved to speak up." That's a message many young people can benefit from hearing, and it's all the more powerful for being part of a more quotidian literary landscape.