Keena Ford and the Secret Journal Mix-Up

by Melissa Thomson (2010)

Keena’s at it again – and it’s all about her missing secret journal.

How can you craft a full-fledged children’s novel out of that slender premise? It’s easy when your protagonist is Keena Ford. Keena is in second grade, and in every Keena Ford story she must navigate the perils of her peer group – the girls who are nice and the ones who are jealous. Her parents live apart but they are both supportive. She has a brother who plays basketball, but also gets in trouble for clowning around. And a male friend, Eric, who always has her back.

Keena must also navigate her own preternatural curiosity about the world. She is enthusiastic, unintentionally mischievous, an eager learner – who somehow manages to end up in the doghouse, too.

Keena loves her journal. She loves how it’s decorated – with clouds and rainbows and George Washington. She loves to write in it – to please her teacher, her mother, and herself. She loves to record her private thoughts, feelings, questions, fears, anxieties in there, too – just like a journal should. So when the journal goes missing, she is desperately afraid that her ambivalent admissions about her nemesis, Tiffany, will reveal her to be a mean girl.

Keena is not mean-spirited at heart – she’s just candid as she wonders questions all kids wonder as they learn about the social dynamics of their worlds. One’s private thoughts are meant to remain private. How to balance one’s questions and suspicions with the challenge of being candid and honest? Where is the place for manners or courtesy? Or privacy?

Keena struggles with these questions – universal questions – and your students and families will enjoy the struggle with her. As usual, Melissa Thomson has crafted a brisk, perky tale as Keena tries to find her journal – and tries to find the right balance between honesty and prudence. What would you do when you wanted to play Airplane Twins (and travel the world in your imagination) and your friend wanted to play Airplane Princess Twins and have tea parties? These, of course, are the essential questions of second grade.