“You’re only as good as your partner.”
Mikayla is a wrestler; when you grow up in a house full of brothers who are die-hard mat heads, it’s in your DNA. She even has a wrestling name: Mickey. Some people don’t want a girl on the team. But that won’t stop her. She’s determined to work hard, and win.
Lev is determined too–he’s going to make it to the state championship. He’s used to training with his two buddies as the Fearsome Threesome. But at the beginning of sixth grade, he’s paired with a new partner—a girl. This better not get in the way of his goal.
Mickey and Lev work hard together, and find a way to become friends. But at States, there can only be one winner.
This warmhearted, engaging novel by the author of the highly praised The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary explores competition among athletes, how it influences family and friendships, and what happens when one girl wants to break barriers in a sport dominated by boys.
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination
Booklist (April 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 15))
Grades 3-6. Along with best friend Kenna, Mikayla is joining her first traveling wrestling league. Preferring to wrestle under the name Mickey, she’s angry when the coach of the Eagles, the team her brothers wrestled with, declares he won’t accept girls, and Kenna admits that she wants to join the drama club instead. With limited options, Mickey joins the Gladiators team. Lev, a Gladiator, is determined to make it to state championships this year and plans to train hard. However, he feels his goals are hampered when Coach pairs him with Mickey—a girl! Shovan has written a sports book that will appeal to all genders and non-sports-fans alike, who will be drawn into Mickey’s struggle to be seen as a wrestler (not a “female” wrestler) and Lev’s grappling with the realization that wrestling may not be his true passion. As the chapters alternate between the characters’ perspectives, readers will quickly become invested, particularly when the tweens’ goals eventually merge and they discover that a true wrestler is anyone with the courage to step on the mat.
Kirkus Reviews (April 1, 2018)
Sixth-graders Lev and Mikayla are both wrestlers. They narrate in their own voices in alternating chapters, often overlapping in time and perspective, allowing readers into their thoughts and concerns, for they are wrestling with middle school friendships and family dynamics as well as on the mat. Mikayla believes that her divorced father spends all his time on her big brothers’ wrestling practices and tournaments. If she joins a team, maybe he will value her more. The prejudice of her brothers’ coach forces her on to a different team, the Gladiators. There she meets Lev, who reluctantly becomes her training partner. Lev is haunted by his failure last year to make the state tournament and is determined to get there this year. Lev is Jewish, and his best friend is a Chinese boy who loves music. Mikayla is a white Christian whose best friend is a biracial brown girl who loves to work with theatrical makeup. Their diversity is treated matter-of-factly, accepted as part of what makes them unique. Although the jargon of wrestling is not always clearly defined, readers will find the action exciting. The characters, both adults and children, are well-developed and likable. Not everything is wrapped up neatly, but there are some twists that will satisfy readers. Mikayla and Lev are winners. (Fiction. 9-12)
About the Author
Laura Shovan’s debut middle-grade novel, The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary, was a NCTE 2017 Notable Verse Novel and a Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Book of the Year, and won a Cybils Award for poetry, as well a Nerdy Book Club award. Her son’s experiences as a member of a travel wrestling team were the inspiration for Takedown. Laura and her family live in Maryland, where she is a longtime poet-in-the-schools for the Maryland State Arts Council.
Her website is laurashovan.com/
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