Talia’s Codebook for Mathletes
Talia has just started 6th grade and uses her codebook to figure out the new social rules of middle school. Dash, her best friend, tells her they can’t be friends anymore since other boys are teasing him that she’s his girlfriend. Talia hopes that both of them being on the school mathlete team will repair their friendship. But things don’t go the way she plans. Using codes, doodles, and puzzles, Talia tries to navigate the pitfalls of middle school and find a way to be a good friend and successful mathlete, all at once.
In this winning interactive comics diary by Moss (the Amelia series), sixth grader Talia Zargari, portrayed with tan skin, records her daily observations and personal thought experiments to cope with the social pitfalls of middle school. Upset by teasing from his male classmates about them being boyfriend-girlfriend, Talia’s best friend Dash, who reads as Black, tells her they can’t be friends anymore. Devastated, STEM-focused Talia turns her sights to making it onto her school’s mathletes team. She’s delighted when both she and Dash make the lineup and hopes spending time together will help them reconcile. But as the only girl on the team, Talia faces gendered discrimination from their captain, prompting her to form her own all-girl mathletes squad. Moss successfully integrates an array of codes, doodles, and puzzles among Talia’s insightful and often humorous deductions about how “middle school isn’t about learning stuff from teachers…. It’s really about learning how to get along with other people.” Talia is an appealing heroine who thrives despite her challenges and missteps, and whose willingness to learn—coupled with her frustrations around growing up and changing dynamics—paints an organic portrait of one irrepressible tween’s middle school experience. Ages 8–12. (June)
– 2023 Publishers Weekly
“Talia Zargari’s notebook helps her deal with the new challenges of sixth grade.
A few weeks into the school year, Dash, Talia’s neighbor and longtime best friend, tells her they can’t be friends anymore. Desperate to fit in, Dash succumbs to peer pressure and teasing from other boys. Hoping to be able to stay close to Dash through their shared love of math, Talia, whose mom is a computer programmer, is excited to join him on the mathlete team. As the only girl, Talia experiences discrimination from the team captain, however, so she decides to start a new, girls-only team. The Mathlete Mermaids show the boys’ team up by winning their first competition. But there is still work to be done in including girls in STEM, and the Mermaids must prove themselves in ways boys don’t. The book shows with authenticity how Talia has to manage complex feelings around growing up, recognizing her own mistakes, and making room for others, particularly when teammate Leticia, a skilled leader, steps in as Mermaids team captain. Talia’s love of code-breaking and scavenger hunts is incorporated through fun puzzles for readers to solve. Fans of Moss’ Amelia’s Notebooks series will feel at home with the engagingly illustrated text and tips for navigating social situations. Talia has tan skin and curly black hair; Dash reads Black, and background characters are diverse in appearance.
A fun, interactive guide to forging your own path in middle school.”
– 2023 Kirkus