Friday, January 24, 2020

Meena meets her match by Karla Manternach

Meena Zee is doing her best to stay upbeat and happy and keep her rainbow-colored look at life, but it's not easy. Her best friend, Sofia, doesn't want to play with her anymore - she'd rather stay in at recess and do extra work, even though she's already perfect. Meena never gets top star stickers for behavior, and she's absolutely determined that at least she's going to have the best and most colorful Valentine's box ever.

Then the really scary thing happens at breakfast one morning. Meena has a seizure and now everything is gray, gray, gray. She's scared and upset and worried, her parents and teachers and even the kids at school watch her constantly. She can't do anything on her own, even picking up recycling treasures from the trash cans on her way home. Her parents put a baby monitor in her room! Under the pressure of her illness, Meena acts out and gets into trouble, but eventually she finds her way again.

While Meena's seizures are a major plot point, she's still dealing with a lot of ordinary school drama. Issues with friends, behavior issues in class, etc. Manternach does a good job of showing how the stress and uncertainty of her medical issues adds unbearable pressure to Meena, as well as her family. Meena has to eventually show a lot more maturity in realizing how her illness has affected her family, especially her younger sister. She realizes her parents are worried about her, but still takes a stand for regaining her independence, supported by the doctor. On the other hand, she's still a little kid and, although she's embarrassed, she just can't help panicking over needles and medical procedures and throwing a fit.

Verdict: Kids will enjoy and relate to the artsy, chatterbox, and competitive Meena with her love of all things rainbow and her struggles with friendship and school-required behavior. This is a great addition to the (very small) body of work showing everyday kids handling disabilities and medical issues and will not only let many kids see themselves in Meena, it will hopefully also give kids without these issues some insight into their friends' and classmates' lives. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781534428171; Published January 2019 by Simon and Schuster; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library

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