Millicent Min, Girl Genius
It’s not easy being a genius, even during summer vacation. Millicent Min, an 12-year-old rising high school senior with no friends (except her grandmother) and few non-academic interests, is taking a “fun” college summer class – poetry – while also reluctantly playing on a club volleyball team and tutoring jock Stanford Wong who is in danger of flunking out of the sixth grade. Millicent befriends her volleyball teammate Emily but doesn’t tell her that she is a certified genius (according to IQ tests and that fact that Millicent was on talk shows as a child) for fear that Emily won’t want to be friends any more. But when a crush between Stanford and Emily leads to Stanford claiming that he is the one tutoring Millicent, she can only hide the truth for so long. Can Emily accept Millicent’s genius? Or is Millicent’s fear of rejection overblown? Lisa Yee creates a funny and charming cast of characters of whom Millicent, at 12 years old, is the most mature, almost to the point of being a parody of a child genius. However, Millicent’s naivety shines through in so many non-intellectual interactions, sometimes hilariously (when she thinks Emily’s mom is going to offer her weed) and sometimes pitifully (in the case of her “friendship” with a college student who is really just using her), reminding the reader of how young she really is and making her relatable for middle grade readers.
Millicent Min, Girl Genius is one of three books in the Millicent Min trilogy. Rather than the sequels being a linear telling within the same world, each book tells the same story from a different point of view. This layering of stories is one of my favorite exercises in children’s literature. I haven’t read the other two books – from Stanford and Emily’s points of view – but I love the idea of presenting to children the same conflicts through others’ eyes. Adults talk a big game about “walking in someone else’s shoes” but children (and let’s be honest, many adults) have a hard time gaining the empathy to actually put it into practice. Books and series that do the leg work of making the other side of the story plain are a great way to practice empathy and consider all the angles before you judge too quickly. I’m planning to read the other two books and will report back!
Read alikes, smart kids
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Matilda by Roald Dahl
Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper
Winger by Andrew Smith
Read alikes, multiple viewpoints
Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman
Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass
Wonder by R.J. Palacio