Kate Messner’s new book Chirp is a captivating story of a cricket farm mystery, summer camp fun, and ultimately, one girl’s journey of finding the confidence to speak up.
Mia is a girl who just wants to forget her past. Luckily, she has plenty of new things to distract her ever since she moved to be near her grandmother’s farm in Vermont. Mia’s grandmother is trying to convince the world that bugs can be tasty food. But Green Mountain Cricket Farm is struggling and not only because business is slow. Mia’s grandmother believes someone is deliberately trying to sabotage her cricket farm. Could her grandmother be right? Though Mia’s parents blame Gram’s suspicions on her recent stroke, Mia is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery. Supported by her new friends from summer camp, Mia taps into her detective side to find out the truth about Gram’s farm.
But Chirp isn’t just cricket farms and mysteries. It’s also a story of Mia coming to terms with her own secret. Since her time as a gymnast back in Boston, Mia has been keeping a painful secret that Messner masterfully hints at throughout the story. Near the end, Mia relives the memories and we learn what she has been struggling with the entire time. I cheered when Mia was inspired by another female to speak up and come to terms with the secret.
Mia’s character development and the overarching meaning of the book were elements I enjoyed. I really loved watching Mia grow and not just because she shares my name. When we first meet Mia, she is underconfident, shy, and hurting from her big secret. As the story progresses, Mia goes through a metamorphosis, slowly coming out of her cocoon. She makes new friends, becomes stronger at Warrior Camp, and makes business plans at her local Maker Space camp. I loved watching Mia grow from a timid little caterpillar into a bold and confident butterfly.
The next thing that really stood out was how the cricket farm setting contributed to the greater meaning in Chirp. I learned for the first time while reading Chirp is that male crickets chirp while female crickets do not. This was so interesting and it tied into Mia’s struggles as a girl in our current society. Chirp’s message to harness your voice to make change was empowering and thoughtful. It was so clever of Messner to juxtapose the message of the book with cricket biology.
Although Chirp was a great book I think that certain elements were overly simplified. The mystery element of the story was unrealistic and never helped Mia’s character development. And I didn’t like how the dialogue and other characters were sometimes simplified for the message to come across. Mia was about my age but acted much younger. Finally, there was an absence of positive male characters in the story. Chirp had great female friendships and strong female leaders, but the closest we come to a “good” male character was Mia’s father. It’s important that boys have role models that are also respectful and supportive of women. I think it would’ve been better if Messner included some male characters who were supportive of the book’s feminist message.
Aside from the minor flaws, I thoroughly enjoyed Chirp. The valuable lessons of the story make it suitable for anyone, although I would especially recommend it to girls who are lacking confidence. Mia’s journey will empower you to be confident and speak up.
Chirp by Kate Messner. Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, 2020. Buy the book here and support Stone Soup in the process!
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