Chirp

review by
Joly Herman, Common Sense Media
Chirp [node:content-type] Poster Image
Girl finds voice to call out harassment in triumphant tale.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Crickets as food? Yes! Lots of educational content about how crickets can be used as eco-friendly protein source (they provide more protein per serving than a serving of beef, require 12,000 times less water, etc.). Mia is enrolled in a makerspace, STEM-based summer camp where she learns how to come up with an idea and write a business plan. She and her friends research and present their plan to business owners. Shows how speaking up about someone who has acted inappropriately can spare others from being subject to that person's damaging behavior.

Positive Messages

You need a game plan -- take time to plot, write down your ideas and goals, then go for it. There's nothing stronger than a woman who's rebuilt herself. All warriors have battle scars. Speak out because you're worth it. Brave women keep going. It's not about finding your way back, it's about finding a way forward. Don't let anyone else decide who you are going to be -- decide that for yourself and work toward what you want. Never forget how brave you are, every day, whether you've found your voice or not.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Mia's grandmother, known as Gram, is an advocate and role model. In the story, she was first woman to become a professor in her field at the local university. After suffering a stroke, she worked hard to rehabilitate herself, continued to build her business. Mia meets successful entrepreneur Anne Marie Spangler, shares a very personal story. Anne Marie is supportive when Mia considers speaking up about a secret. Mia's mom listens to her, takes her seriously. Mia's dad is goofy but loving, supportive. Mia and her family are White, her friend Anna is of Indian descent, and there's diversity among her friends at camp.

Violence

An adult shoves a kid so hard that she falls down. Conversations, descriptions of inappropriate adult physical contact and text messaging -- without giving explicit content. A girl tells about a man who pulls his baggy swimsuit to the side to expose himself. Women discuss men's inappropriate behavior toward and harassment of women and girls. They talk about being harassed at work, including men touching their skirts and making inappropriate comments about women's clothing. 

Sex
Language
Consumerism

Mountain Dew, Chex Mix, Boston Marathon, Avengers, Eagles (band), University of Vermont, Wicked, Subaru, Skittles, Twix, Starburst, Popsicle, Idina Menzel. Books mentioned include The Parker Inheritance, Moxie, and The Art of Rule Breaking, Me, Frida, Secret of the Peacock Ring.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that in Chirp, veteran author Kate Messner (All the Answers) tackles the difficult topic of keeping secrets from adults. It tells the story of Mia, who's spending the summer after seventh grade in Vermont, where her family is moving from Boston to be near her grandmother. She's uncomfortable around new people, especially "friendly ones," a feeling she's had for the past year. She makes new friends at camp, but a secret is weighing on her -- one about how a person in authority acted inappropriately toward her back in Boston. Adults can be pushy in this book, literally: A man pushes a kid down to the ground. But kids use their voices to be heard advocating for themselves. Mia and her friends investigate a possible business sabotage, breaking into a building that they shouldn't go into, and then they lie about it. Characters tell stories about sexual harassment (though that term is not used) that are not graphic, except for a story about a man who pulls his bathing suit aside to expose himself to a child (not Mia) on a beach -- body parts are implied but not named. This is the rare middle grade book that deals with sexual harassment, which even young kids may encounter. Check out our tips on how to talk to kids about sexual harassment before they even know about sex

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What's the story?

In CHIRP, a middle schooler named Mia is moving with her parents from Boston to Vermont in order to support her grandmother who's recovering from a stroke. Her fear of meeting new people and having adventures is something new, and as she unpacks her boxes in her new room, she finds remnants of her younger, braver self. Helping her Gram, who owns a cricket farm, could be a fulfilling enough way to spend the summer, but her parents want her to engage in more activities. So, she finds herself enrolling in a "Launch Camp" with other middle schoolers who are making inventions that they will present to future investors. She meets a girl named Clover in that camp who's also in the "Warrior Camp" nearby. But getting to the Warrior Camp means going through the gymnastics studio, which brings up a whole set of emotions for Mia, whose tumbling accident sidelined her for a year, and where something else happened that she doesn't want to talk about. She's become afraid of new people and experiences. Her new friend Clover, however, is a girl of action. She suspects a mystery happening at Gram's cricket farm and enlists Mia to help solve it with her. Friendships, business ideas, and a warrior attitude help Mia look at what has changed her in the past, and what she wants from the world going forward.

Is it any good?

This entertaining middle-grade novel deftly interweaves an upbeat, quick-paced mystery and a girl's dilemma regarding a secret that's come to affect her behavior. It sensitively explores how it feels to have received unwanted, inappropriate, boundary-crossing attention from a male adult in a position of power -- an experience that made her feel "icky" but that she didn't think was "bad enough" to tell anyone. Neither the term "sexual predator" nor "sexual harassment" appear in the text. "Master manipulator" and "harassment" do. Chirp author Kate Messner boldly handles the challenge of tackling this sensitive subject and balancing the narrative threads.

Kids will love sleuthing with the girls and the excitement of munching on crickets while trying to sell a business idea to attentive entrepreneurs. Frank talk about the reality of sexual harassment is joined by a chorus of adult women. Nearly all of the moms and adult women surrounding these girls have a #MeToo story to share. Chirp has moments of true cinematic finesse, such as Mia's frustration with the female crickets who are silent while the males make a deafening racket. It's a story of triumph for those brave enough to speak out.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about adults and kids communicating by text or online in Chirp. When is it safe? What are boundaries that should be kept in mind, even with people you know?

  • What is appropriate touching or contact? How do you know when a hug isn't right? Do you have a list of trusted adults you can confide in?

  • How have views of women and girls changed in movies and shows over the years? Do you feel that girls and women are represented as they truly are? What needs to change?

Book details

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For kids who love friendship and coming-of-age stories

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