Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Book Review: Cody and the Heart of a Champion by Tricia Springstubb (2018)

Cody and the Heart of a Champion is the fourth title in this beautifully written series by one of my favorite middle grade authors, Tricia Springstubb. Spring has arrived, and it has brought many changes both big and small to Cody's life. Her brother, Wyatt, is wearing dress shirts daily to impress his girlfriend, while Cody's friend and neighbor, Spencer, is working on a mysterious project under the porch in the wake of the news that his mother will soon have a baby. Meanwhile, Cody tries to ignore the fact that she has outgrown her favorite spring jacket, while her friend Pearl becomes consumed by her newfound interest in playing soccer.

Four books into the series, I am running out of ways to express how wonderful these books are. The first title in the series set the bar very high in 2015 with Cody and the Fountain of Happiness, and each sequel has met that standard. As always, in this newest book (of which I received an ARC from NetGalley) Springstubb gets the little details of childhood just right. In particular, she does a great job with the soccer storyline, in which Pearl and Cody are intimidated by star player Madison who cares more about winning than team-building. I thought it was especially interesting that Cody learns how to be a good sport not from her own bad behavior, but from having to put up with someone else's poor sportmanship. I haven't read many kids' books that model how to handle a bad situation when someone else's negative behavior is the cause.

It is also impressive to me how so many elements of the story relate the to theme of change - including the season in which the book is set! - without the theme feeling like a gimmick. Each piece of the plot informs the others, and it is really Cody's hopeful and cheerful navigation of the difficulties that come up that make the story appealing.

I really look forward to the day my own girls, all currently under five, are old enough to appreciate this series. Until then, I will continue to urge parents of girls (and boys) in the 7- to 10-year-old range to seek out these books for their kids. They are quality stories with great characters and gorgeous writing - you can't go wrong!

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