HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Author: Mary Casanova
Illustrator: Brian Hailes
Publisher: American Girl, 2012
Language level: 2
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 8 and up
Rating: **** 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Casanova, Mary. McKenna (published in 2012 by AmericanGirl LLC, 8400 Fairway Place, Middleton, WI 53562). Ten-year-old McKenna Brooks lives in Seattle, WA, with her dad, a high school principal, her mom, who runs a coffee shop, and her younger five year old twin sisters Maisey and Mara. McKenna has always been a good student-and is great at gymnastics. However, in fourth grade her grades suddenly begin to fall. If her schoolwork doesn’t improve, she may have to give up her beloved gymnastics, so her teacher Mr. Wu suggests a little extra help from a tutor named Josie, a super-confident girl who also happens to be in a wheelchair. McKenna can’t bring herself to tell her friends, especially Toulane and Sierra, about her tutor, so she lies to them, and when they accidentally find out they are hurt and angry. Then McKenna has an accident. Will she ever be able to perform again? Can she bring her grades up? And what will happen with her friends?
Having had only boys, we never read any of the “American Girls” series, but they have been recommended by many because all the girls have high moral standards, being resourceful, respectful, and caring of others, and there are always consequences for any misbehavior. Therefore, when I saw McKenna on the free table of our local library, I picked it up. It has a couple of common euphemisms (gosh, darn) but contains a lot of important lessons, such as the benefits of doing well in school, the value of a positive attitude in overcoming handicaps, the dangers of lying, the need to be accepting of others who are “different,” and the importance of setting proper priorities. It also shows a loving family relationship. My wife told me that some of the newer “American Girl” books do get into feminism and a few other objectionable concepts, but I know that the older ones have been very popular with homeschoolers.
Josie is a couple of grades ahead of McKenna, who says, “Plus, she was older than I was. Would she even want to hang out with someone my age?” This is one of the problems of age segregation in institutional schools. But McKenna and Josie become friends anyway. I liked that. A few years ago, American Girls, which is owned by Mattel, became involved in some controversy because of its providing funding for and inclusion on its website of links to another organization, Girls Inc. with its “I Can” bracelet, which supports abortion, providing contraceptives to young girls, and the lesbian lifestyle. However, after some protest, the links were apparently removed. Mary Casanova is the author of thirty books for young readers, including Cecile, Jess, Chrissa, and Chrissa Stands Strong for American Girls. In addition, there are two other American Girls books about McKenna—McKenna Shoots for the Stars by Nia Vardalos and McKenna, Ready to Fly! also by Mary Casanova.