McKenna (American Girl) (American Girl Today) was written by Mary Casanova, illustrated by Brian Hailes and published by American Girl, 2011.

McKenna is a promising gymnast who is one class away from the competitive team. She is focusing her time and energy on making the team. A few weeks into the school year her parents receive an e-mail from her 4th grade teacher saying that McKenna is having trouble in reading. To stay in gymnastics she knows she must maintain her grades. She has no alternative but to accept a peer tutor who will help with the reading. Her tutor, Josie, is in a wheelchair. McKenna is embarrassed about the tutoring and refuses to tell her friends even when they are sharing secrets with her.

Josie and McKenna begin regular tutoring sessions. McKenna is still afraid of what her friends will think if they find out. However, during tutoring McKenna learns techniques for reading from Josie and how to bring the books to life in her head.

One weekend McKenna learns she will miss gymnastics to go on a family vacation to Bainbridge Island. Josie’s family is also going. McKenna and Josie’s friendship deepens on the trip.

After the vacation, there is a final competition for the gymnastics class. McKenna knows the coaches for the competitive team are there watching. All is going well when all of the sudden McKenna’s dreams and friendships crash with a fall. Will her friends forgive her for not telling them her secret? Is McKenna going to be okay after the fall?

Most American Girl novels have historical settings, but this one is set in modern days. The novel will encourage young girls to overcome embarrassment by talking through problems. It also teaches that a person should not judge others based on appearances. This book has 128 pages and is recommended for girls ages 10-13. Recently, a movie came out based on McKenna’s story. I would encourage young girls to read McKenna and cheer on the USA gymnastics team in the Olympics.

Kristina O’Brien is a mother of twin girls, an avid reader and a credentialed teacher. She has taught both middle school and high school history. She is currently a stay-at-home mom and enjoys raising her two girls.

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