Saturday, June 6, 2020

MMGM: Chirp by Kate Messner

                     **Contains Spoilers** 

It's the beginning of summer and twelve-year-old Mia Barnes couldn't be happier about moving away from Boston with her family. Mia had been a talented gymnast until she fell off the balance beam, broke her arm, and lost interest in gymnastics. While on the mend, Mia had binged on American Warrior, a reality TV show to avoid thinking about gymnastics. Now, there would be her beloved Gram and her Green Mountain Cricket Farm, the dream business she had begun a few years ago as an alternative source of protein, to think about. Because of a mild stroke, however, Gram is supposed to retire.

No sooner do they arrive, and Gram tells them her cricket farm is being sabotaged probably by a guy named Chet Potsworth, who wants to buy the cricket farm. Instead of selling and retiring, though, Gram introduces them to her new employee Daniel and her new dog Syd. Knowing that her Gram's retirement and the sale of the cricket farm are going to be an obsession with her mother, Mia agrees to attend two different summer camps. One is Launch Camp, a young entrepreneur program, and other, Warrior Camp, a place for Mia's body to heal and strengthen again. It doesn't take long and Mia has made two new friends - Anna, a computer whiz, and Clover, who is a warrior whiz.

Mia believes her Gram when she says her cricket farm is being sabotaged, after all, it's just too much of a coincidence that seagulls, beetles, and fruit flies, enemies of the crickets, suddenly invade the farm, or when most of them die from someone tampering with the temperature controls. Clover, a Nancy Drew fan who loves solving mysteries, is gun-ho about getting to the bottom of this mystery. And while Mia and Clover are working on that, they are also working with Anna to come up with an entrepreneurial plan for increasing business at the cricket farm.

But as much as Mia is enjoying being in Vermont and getting to know her new friends, she has a secret of her own, one she can't bring herself to talk about. Little by little, readers will piece together just what happened to Mia in gymnastics in Boston. But, when Launch Camp has a field trip to UVM to hear a successful businesswoman, Anne Marie Spangler, talking about launching her business, Mia overs her talking afterward about how a former boss has sexually harassed her. Here was a strong, successful woman who had faced the same kind of inappropriate behavior in a man that Mia had faced with her gymnastics coach. After talking to Mia, Anne Marie advises her to talk to her parents or another trusted adult. But can Mia find the strength within herself to do that? It becomes an easier decision when she hears that her younger cousin in Boston is signed up with the same gymnastics coach.

When readers first meet Mia, she's subdued, fearful, and distrustful, no longer the strong, fearless gymnast she was before she broke her arm. At first, it seems that this is all the result of Mia's fall from the balance beam, but slowly readers begin to realize the fall might not have been completely accidental as Mia allows herself to begin thinking about her coach's inappropriate behavior more and more. Messner has done a masterful job of building up the full story of his violation. I felt Mia's shame, her self-blame, her questioning - did it really happen the way she remembered it? Did coach give her that Olympic pin because she was a truly gifted gymnast or to buy her complicity? 

Little by little the fearful girl Mia once was begins to come back, thanks to new friends, new achievements and a loving family. But as she discovers, her #MeToo story has changed her forever and she can never really be the same girl she once was. But, as her Gram tells her: 

"You've been carrying around what happened all this time, getting up every morning, going to school, going to camp, making friends. Do you realize how brave that is?...That's what brave women do. We keep going.Somehow we manage to grieve over things that have happened to up at the same time we're saving the world and running businesses and practicing law and raising families."

Chirp is kind of a mixed bag. It's a book about family, friendship, and the mystery of who is trying to ruin Gram's dream. But it is also a #MeToo story about finding your voice and the courage to speak up. And it is also a story about hope. That may sound like too much going on for a Middle Grade novel, but this is a well crafted story and nothing is gratuitous.
And yes, the girls solve the mystery of who is sabotaging the cricket farm. It was fun to read about and  it was not who I expected at all.

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was an eARC gratefully received from NetGalley

Be sure to check out the other Marvelous Middle Grade Monday offerings, now being carried on by Greg at Always in the Middle.


  1. This sounds very powerful. I think the addition of the cricket farm mystery would help to balance the atrocity that she experienced. Still, I don't think that this could be given to a child reader without a discussion. Currently, my own daughter is unaware of the reality of #metoo. She doesn't yet understand the darkness in the world. But for girls who understand, some personally, I think that books can be a large path to freedom and healing. Thanks for the share.

  2. This sounds like an incredibly important story, especially considering some of the abuse that has previously gone on in the world of gymnastics. I really enjoyed one of Messner's previous books, All the Answers, so I suspect this one is also quite well-written and enjoyable! Thanks for the thoughtful review!

  3. Love what her granny tells her. It's so true. Thanks for sharing the quote. There are so many layers of why this sounds like a great story. Thanks for your great review.

  4. What a immensely powerful story. Mia's character arc won me over. The cover sure doesn't hint at what's in store for readers. I'll be tracking down a copy for a summer read. Thanks for featuring on MMGM.

  5. This story is a gem! I can't wait to read the story. Our daughter was a gymnist many years ago and broke her wrist, so that appealed to me. But the real story is much deeper and I am pleased that there is a book that introduces sexual harrassment. Outstanding review. Guess we both review a Kate Messner book today!

  6. I've had this on my TBR list for a while. I hope I can get to it soon. Thanks for your thoughts.


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