By Mary Casanova
Illustrated by Brian Hailes
McKenna is a second grade level book in the American Girl series about a young girl interested in gymnastics. The writing is clear and easy for most second grade level students to read and comprehend but the book would definitely appeal to girls over boys.
While the overall story is excellent, the story has a few underlying themes that may be invisible to the early second grade reader without discussion with an adult. The lexile is higher making this a more difficult book for the low level second grader. It could prove frustrating for those who have not yet developed good reading skills.
The plus side to McKenna is the overall wholesome story line which is family oriented and covers a variety of common emotions that second grade students might feel. Needing help with learning by a tutor, feeling like a failure with an injured leg keeping McKenna from participating in gymnastics, and the isolation and embarrassment common to second graders is well described in the second grade story.
This would be an excellent addition to a second grade classroom. It offers a challenging text and theme for second grade readers although with a female protagonist it would not interest male readers. It makes excellent reading for fun and entertainment and girls will want to read more in the series. The characters are realistic making the reader like them immediately and the story has a real life ending with a real life lesson on patience woven in.
The book also includes a few real life letters with appropriate answers by American Girl on problems that second grade readers might relate to. This offers a spring board to discussions in the classroom or at home on real life concerns for students.