In Keena Ford and the Second-Grade Mix-Up, we meet Keena as she starts a new school year with all the excitement and apprehension it brings. She tells us all about it through the entries in her brand new journal, so we experience all of her thoughts and emotions first hand.
Like the heroines in many early chapter books, Keena means well but she finds herself too often in Mr. Lemon’s time-out class. She is inquisitive and perceptive, and she doesn’t always keep her observations to herself. She notes that her first grade teacher suggested that if she spend more time writing and less time worrying about other people’s business, she could be “a famous writer someday.” But, she notes:
“…if I don’t pay attention to other people’s business, what will I write about?”
This fresh, personal perspective and the journal format set Keena Ford apart from other similar books.
Keena’s natural apprehension about the new school year escalates when she finds out that her school is instituting separate classes for girls and boys. It’s bad enough that she will be in a different class than her best friend, Eric. The prospects of being in a class of only girls has her worrying about being “covered in pink and drinking paper-bag tea every day” – definitely not her style.
Going out for coffee with her dad (“decaf with skim milk, hold the coffee”) helps her work through some of her anxiety, and helps her see some vulnerability in her dad, too.
Things start off fine in Ms. Campbell’s class until Keena accidently writes down that her birthday is 9/2 instead of 2/9, and her teacher makes a BIG deal about celebrating the first class birthday on September 2nd. A simple mistake takes on a life of its own, and Keena can’t seem to fix it…especially when she sees the beautiful chocolate cake waiting for her in the classroom.
Students will identify with the feeling of a small thing spinning into a thing that is too big to control. And maybe adults will understand those situations a little better, too, and find ways to be a bit more compassionate when similar situations occur.
Keena Ford and the Second-Grade Mix-Up gives us all of this and more in a brisk 102 pages with just enough illustrations to support younger listeners. Once your students and families fall for impish, forthright, and intrepid Keena, they can dive right into the rest of the series.