Welcome Back, Maple Mehta-Cohen
Kate McGovern, Author
Candlewick Press, Fiction, Oct. 12, 2021
Suitable for ages: 9-12
Themes: Dyslexia, Secrets, Learning differences. Bullies, Friendship, Family, Hope, Multicultural
Maple is in fifth grade—again. Now everyone will find out she struggles with reading—or will they? An engaging read for anyone who has ever felt different.
Maple Mehta-Cohen has been keeping a big secret: she can’t read well. She has an impressive vocabulary and loves dictating stories into her recorder—especially the adventures of a daring sleuth who’s half Indian and half Jewish like she is—but words on the page just don’t seem to make sense to her. Despite all Maple’s clever tricks to hide her troubles with reading, her teacher sees through them all, and now she is repeating fifth grade.
Maple is devastated—what will her friends think as she starts the school year? Will they forget about her? She uses her storytelling skills to convince her new fifth grade classmates that she’s staying back as a special teacher’s assistant (because of budget cuts, you know).
But as Maple navigates the loss of old friendships, the possibility of new ones, and facing her reading challenges head-on, her deception becomes harder to keep up. Can Maple begin to recognize her own strengths, and to love herself—and her brain—just the way she is? Readers who have faced their own trials with school and friendships will enjoy this heartwarming story and its bright, creative heroine.
Why I like this book:
Thank you Kate McGovern for writing a realistic and heartwarming middle grade story for students who have reading and learning differences. It’s important that they see themselves in a smart, clever and witty main characters like Maple, who deals with the emotional and social impact of her reading difficulties. She’s embarrassed. Her long-time friends ignore her. She’s bullied. But she’s resilient.
Maple is a creative and compassionate main character. She is a girl who loves big words and is an excellent storyteller. Her favorite author is Agatha Christie and she always has a mystery she’s writing and recording. But her BIG secret becomes too stressful to keep. She has to figure things out for herself. Her journey is believable as she learns to embrace her dyslexia and use it positively. It is an inspiring story about family, friends and hope.
I also love that Maple is Indian and Jewish (Hin-Jew as she calls herself) and constantly feels caught in between — never fully belonging on one side. Many readers will identify with her mixed ethnicity.
Learning differences present in many forms, including dyslexia. To learn more information, McGovern suggests readers check out the website Understood to learn about the 1 in 5 Americans who learn and think differently. And you’ll have to read McGovern’s book to discover the famous people who have learning differences.
Kate McGovern is the author of the young adult novels Rules for 50/50 Chances and Fear of Missing Out. She has worked in schools and education nonprofits in Boston, London, and New York City, including at the Harlem Children’s Zone, where she served as a reading specialist and directed Shakespeare productions with middle-schoolers. Her daughter, Priya, is the original “Hin-Jew” kid that Maple is written for. Kate McGovern lives in an Indian-Jewish household in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
*Review copy provided by Candlewick Press in exchange for a review.