Girl of the Year 2012: McKenna, Ready to Fly!

Author: Mary Casanova
Illustrator: Brian Hailes


McKenna's cast will be off soon, and she's ready to try out for the competition gymnastic team. She has two months--until March--to get ready. She's also still working with Josie, but once a week instead of twice. Josie is going to go to a therapeutic riding center soon, but she's afraid of getting hurt horseback-riding. McKenna offers to come with her--even though she'll have to reschedule getting the cast off. It's important to her to help Josie. Toulane cautions McKenna not to let too much take time away from gymnastics--Toulane's mother is always on her back to focus so she can make the competitive team. 

At the riding center, McKenna is surprised to see one of her classmates, Elizabeth. Her younger brother has a mental disability (and maybe physical; the book isn't clear), and he rides horses there too. Elizabeth volunteers there on the weekends. McKenna mentions it to her gymnastics coach at her next practice (when her cast is finally off) and the whole team will soon be going up to help out after practice one Saturday. Sierra's excited--McKenna notices that Sierra's been very encouraging as she restarts gymnastics--but Toulane isn't sure she can take a break. McKenna's frustrated with how distant she feels from Toulane. The two used to be so close, but now Toulane is obsessing over gymnastics and hardly lets herself think about anything else, plus it seems like McKenna keeps hurting Toulane's feelings. Toulane gets permission to go to the riding center and does pretty well there, but gets flustered quickly and McKenna doesn't get a chance to talk with her.

Soon, a solution presents itself: McKenna's teacher says she no longer needs a tutor (McKenna and Josie will remain friends) and to celebrate, McKenna's parents say she can invite two friends for dinner at the top of the Space Needle (that's a very expensive dinner, but her dad says she's earned it). McKenna invites Toulane and Josie, being sure to tell each that the other is invited. Toulane says yes right away, and also agrees to ask her mom if she can come help at the riding center again. At the riding center that weekend, Toulane confesses her fear of not making the competitive team, and McKenna notes that Toulane doesn't seem to enjoy gymnastics anymore.

Two weeks fly by. It's time for tryouts. McKenna performs well enough to earn one of the two spots on the competitive team, and Toulane gets the other. Sierra comes in third behind McKenna. But Toulane tells the coach she doesn't want to on the competitive team. She'd rather have fun with rhythmic gymnastics, even if it's not what her mom wants--Toulane's the one doing the sport, not her mom. The coach wisely tells Toulane to talk with her mom before saying anything to Sierra. 

The books skips ahead to the Space Needle dinner. Toulane is joining rhythmic gymnastics now that her mother understands how miserable she's been. McKenna and Sierra are now both on the competitive team, and Josie's learning more and more about riding. McKenna's happy to share a fun dinner with Toulane and Josie; happy to have two close friends. 

Real Girls Who Encourage Each Other

Katie W., a thirteen-year-old Wisconsin snowboard champion, began collecting and making hats when her friend Gina was diagnosed with cancer. The two girls donated hundreds of hats, and Gina is now in remission. New Jersey resident Grace G. uses hearing aids, and when she learned that most insurance companies don't the expensive equipment, she campaigned and got a law passed that insurance companies have to cover hearing aids in her state--and the law is named after her (http://graceslaw.com/). Michala R. raised $200,000 to fund autism research in just six months, inspired by her younger brother who has autism. Ruthie, adopted from Haiti, and her best friend Raegan set up a fundraiser wherein Raegan swam more than two miles (in a pool) with Ruthie's encouragement and pledge solicitation, and sent about $70,000 to help fund relief efforts after a devastating earthquake in Haiti.


Dedicated to "the kids and volunteers at Forget-Me-Not Riding Center, for young gymnasts everywhere, and for readers of all kinds and abilities. Follow your dreams!"

I wonder how far from Queen Anne Hill you can actually get in twenty-five minutes (the time to drive to the riding center) on a Friday afternoon. Seattle's rush hour traffic is not kind.

On page thirty-one, Shannon and Logan say hi to each other. Logan is a teenager while Shannon is an adult--did she escape the time warp?

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