Summary: Chirp by Kate Messner
Chirp was my first Kate Messner novel. Mia and her parents have moved to Vermont the summer after seventh grade to help look after her grandma. Before the move, Mia broke her arm falling off a balance beam in gymnastics. Since then, she’s packed up everything related to the sport she once loved, deciding to call it quits.
However, both Mia and her parents are in for a shock when they reach Vermont. Mia’s grandmother for one, doesn’t seem to need any care. In fact, she’s started a cricket farm! The only issue is that Mia’s grandmother is convinced that someone is trying to sabotage the farm — and there’s some evidence to back up her claims because weird disruptive things keep happening.
Mia and her new friends find themselves caught up with solving the mystery of her grandma’s farm debacles while trying to develop business strategies to promote the farm and cricket demand. As Mia gets into day camp and begins making new friends, readers start to realize that there might be more behind Mia’s decision to quit gymnastics.
I enjoyed the way this story plays out, especially the mystery elements with Mia’s grandmother’s farm. Although I’m not the biggest mystery buff (I never know who did it), I think this was a solid mystery. Mia also has a secret (related to inappropriate behavior from her gymnastics coach) and Messner unveils the story sensitively and at the right time, without unnecessary teasing. Another strong point is Mia’s summer camps — the summer vibe in this book is strong! From diving into lakes to hanging out with friends every day, it’s a perfect summer book.
I enjoyed Mia’s new friendships as well as the dynamics with her grandmother and parents. Mia also works to create a business plan for grandmother’s cricket farm, actually going to stores and restaurants to sell them on the idea of cricket recipes — which I really enjoyed! Those kids sure know how to work the business angle and they certainly got me curious about crickets as a meal or dessert topping.
This seems to be a general issue with me and Messner’s books but I find them so terribly slow in the beginning. I still haven’t finished Breakout because I just could not tell where the story was going, even 15% in. I dropped this one a couple of times, but the audiobook helped and I’m glad I saw it through.
Overall: Chirp by Kate Messner
Chirp is a worthy addition to the strong lineup of middle-grade books about consent and sexual harassment. But despite how heavy that topic can be, this book’s vibrant summer spirit brings a much needed airiness to the plot. Add an engaging mystery, a fiesty grandma, heart-tugging friendships, summer camp, entrepreneurship, and crickets — and there’s much to love! If you enjoy grandparent stories or books set in summer, then you’ll enjoy Chirp.
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Have you read Chirp or anything by Kate Messner? Which Messner book should I read next? What are your favorite middle-grade books about consent/sexual harassment? And which middle-grade books scream “summer!” to you? I’d love a good summery book!