Spirit Week Showdown: Magnificent Mya Tibbs, Book 1

Book review by
Terreece Clarke, Common Sense Media
Spirit Week Showdown: Magnificent Mya Tibbs, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Layered, fun romp focuses on friendship and trust.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Though primarily a pleasure read, the book does give some insight to southwestern culture including cattle roping. It also has good insight on dealing with bullies.

Positive Messages

The novel has great messages about friendship, trust, and a good sibling relationship. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

The great thing about this novel is that the positive role models are twofold, with both student and adult role models. The adult role models allow the children to experience and work through problems on their own while also being available for heart-to-hearts. The kids in the book figure out for themselves what kind of friends they want to be and how to identify true friends.

Violence & Scariness

One student hog-ties two students, once to keep a student from hurting another and a second time to show her roping skills. Another student threatens to beat up a student for being mean.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Spirit Week Showdown: The Magnificent Mya Tibbs, Book 1 introduces the very appealing, spunky Mya Tibbs, 9, and offers a nuanced view of girls' friendships rather than resorting to the stereotypical mean-girl drama common in middle-grade novels. The story deals with bullies, friendship, and the occasional hog-tying of a student. In one incident, a student threatens to beat up another in defense of his sister, who's being picked on. Overall, Spirit Week Showdown is filled with positive messages and is a fine choice for families looking for books with diverse characters.

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What's the story?

Nine-year-old Mya Tibbs has a great best friend, a cool brother, and a plan for winning the Spirit Week challenges so that she and her best friend Naomi get the VIP badges to the town fair. Things go very wrong when Mya is paired up with Mean Connie, a bully Naomi knows from her old school. Over the week, however, Mya discovers things aren't what they appear, and she has to make a decision about what kind of friend she wants to be. 

Is it any good?

Kids will fall in love with Mya and her outsize, sweet spirit, and parents will be happy to hand their kid a book that doesn't perpetuate stereotypes of girl friendships. With its multilayered approach to friendship dynamics, this nuanced, heartfelt, and realistic middle-grade novel excels where so many fail. Author Crystal Allen shuns the flat good-girl-vs.-mean-girl tropes and instead writes characters as full as the kids you know.
 
Each character has distinct motivations and must decide what kind of person she wants to be. It's a question characters ask and answer often as each situation arises, as opposed to having a dramatic decision at the climax of the story. Another wonderful aspect is that adult support is readily available but fluid enough to allow the kids to work through their processes. It's a nice departure from kid lit that often sees adults painted as out-of-touch dorks.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about mean girls and how to deal with them. Do you have girls in your school who target and bully others? How can you help encourage empathy among students?

  • Naomi and Mya both have loyal friends, but that loyalty is sometimes misplaced. How do you stand up to a friend who's wrong?

  • The Tibbs kids have both teachers and their parents to talk to when things get tough. Do you have someone you trust whom you can talk to? Why is that important?

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