Chirp


Publication Date: 28 Sep. 2021
Format: Paperback / softback

ISBN 9781547605705

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    When Mia moves to Vermont the summer after seventh grade, she's recovering from the broken arm she got falling off a balance beam. And packed away in the moving boxes under her clothes and gymnastics trophies is a secret she'd rather forget.

    Mia's change in scenery brings day camp, new friends, and time with her beloved grandmother. But Gram is convinced someone is trying to destroy her cricket farm. Is it sabotage or is Gram's thinking impaired from the stroke she suffered months ago? Mia and her friends set out to investigate, but can they uncover the truth in time to save Gram's farm? And will that discovery empower Mia to confront the secret she's been hiding--and find the courage she never knew she had?

    In a compelling story rich with friendship, science, and summer fun, a girl finds her voice while navigating the joys and challenges of growing up.

    Information

    Book Type: Junior High
    Age Group: 13 years +
    Traffic Lights: Green/Amber
    Class Novel: Yes
    Good Reads Rating: 5/5
    Literary Rating: 5/5

    Review

    Mia used to live for gymnastics, but a nasty fall that left her with a broken arm has changed everything. Now moving to Vermont, she's excited for a fresh start. She joins Warrior Camp, a day camp packed full of challenging physical activity, and Launch Camp for Young Entrepreneurs, where kids work on projects in makerspaces. Plus, they're close to Mia's grandmother and her cricket farm. Mia's mother wants Gram to shut down the farm since she had a stroke recently, but Gram has decided not to sell. Mia decides to focus her entrepreneur project on coming up with ways for Gram's business to expand and become more sustainable.

    But all is not as it seems. Gram suspects that the farm is being sabotaged to force her into selling it. Mia and her new friend from Warrior Camp and Launch Camp, Clover, think she may be right when they discover evidence that someone has broken into Gram's property and find a listening device.

    Mia also strikes up a friendship with the other girls at Launch Camp, who help her with her project of making Gram's farm attractive to investors. They make progress, starting the hashtag #ChirpChallenge on social media and working on ways to automate processes around the farm with robotics.

    Then Mia goes to a talk by entrepreneur Anne Marie Spangler, who talks a little about the harassment she faced in her first job. After the talk, Mia approaches Anne Marie and admits that something like that happened to her too. We learn that Mia was harassed by one of the assistant coaches at her old gym, which was the reason for her accident. Anne Marie encourages her to open up to a trusted adult, and she eventually tells her mother and grandmother.

    She'd been so afraid of being noticed that she'd tried to become invisible; she'd been so afraid of not being believed that she didn't feel able to speak up. Her mother and grandmother believe her and communicate with the gym, eventuating in a police investigation of the coach in question. Over time, the other girls open up to Mia as well: they all understand, even at a young age, that women and girls experience harassment. Mia thinks about how female crickets are silent--male crickets make all the sound. She connects this not just to the culture of silencing harassment and assault victims, but also to women being overlooked in the workplace and other spheres, unable to make their voices heard.

    With teamwork and some canny deduction, Mia and her friends are able to solve the mystery of what's going on at Gram's camp, and Anne Marie is interested in backing the farm--crickets are the future of superfood, and Mia's business plan is solid. When Mia returns to the gym and performs the stunt that injured her, she knows she's on the road to healing.

    A clever, sweet, and well-written story about friendship, trauma, and fighting injustice. The matters of harassment are handled sensitively and with great care. This book would help to broach the subject of identifying inappropriate behaviour and modelling the steps of finding and communicating with a trusted adult. It's highly readable, and could be used as a resource for advanced younger readers with guidance. The discussion of crickets as a food product is highly interesting, and their use as a motif is deftly handled. The elements of mystery interwoven throughout act on different levels, as the reader doesn't discover the truth of Mia's past until halfway through the book. Even as she is discovering the truth of who's targeting her grandmother's farm, Mia is rediscovering her power, resilience, and hope. Overall, an uplifting and important read.

    Themes

    crickets, mystery, friendship, family, trauma, harassment, trust, resilience, self-belief, gymnastics, makerspaces, entrepreneur, business

    Content Notes

    Clover tells Mia that at one point she was on the beach, and a man pulled his board shorts aside "so everybody could see what was under there" (p. 83).Nothing specific is described, and Clover says she told her mums immediately upon returning home (Clover has two mums). They called the police but don't know if the man was arrested (p. 85). Mia recollects inappropriate behaviour exhibited by one of her coaches in the past. Phil was friendly to everyone, but especially so to Mia--he gave her a special pin and would text her about non-gymnastics related matters, e.g. a photo of him at the beach with the caption "you should send me a pic of you, too!" (p. 135). He would also hug her, and his hugs felt too tight (p. 136). To avoid his attention, she started purposefully performing worse in gymnastics (p. 137). Once, he rubbed her shoulders after practice and when she tried to get up, he pushed her back down. She was too scared to try getting up again (p. 138). The next practice, she fell off the beam and broke her arm (p. 139). Mia's cousin Fiona wants to join Tumblers, her old gym. Mia worries that the same thing will happen to her, so she tells her mother and grandmother about what happened (p. 174-175). Her mother speaks to Fiona's mother and Fiona goes to a different gym (p. 186). Mia's mother also talks to the coach at Tumblers, who hears that another child received similar treatment, so an investigation is opened with the police (p. 217). Anne Marie explains that women in STEM have a difficult time, and that her superior at her first job "couldn't keep his hands to himself" (p. 145). Priya mentions that her mother used to get harassed a lot, and that some men just assumed that she wanted to go out with them (p. 94).

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