cover image Emma McKenna, Full Out (The Kids in Mrs. Z’s Class #1)

Emma McKenna, Full Out (The Kids in Mrs. Z’s Class #1)

Kate Messner, illus. by Kat Fajardo. Algonquin, $15.99 (128p) ISBN 978-1-523525-71-3; $6.99 paper ISBN 978-1-5235-2572-0

When cheerleader Emma McKenna begins third grade at Curiosity Academy, she’s eager to befriend her new classmates and thrilled by her quirky teacher Mrs. Z. But Emma isn’t expecting to encounter Lucy, her former best friend, with whom she had a falling-out the year before, resulting in mean nicknames and hurt feelings. Now, Emma worries that Lucy will turn the class against her. Fretting about Lucy is exhausting, so Emma focuses on winning the affection of “maybe-friends.” Inspired by her family’s ice cream shop and her fondness for obscure holidays, Emma endeavors to endear herself to her schoolmates by bringing gummy worms to class on “Eat an Extra Dessert Day.” With her classmates more concerned about choosing a school mascot, however, Emma pivots and makes her case for the capybara, a creature she imagines is “friends with everybody.” The first in a new series, each written by a different author, this wholesome read by Messner (The Scariest Kitten in the World) briefly introduces future planned protagonists without sacrificing the momentum of Emma’s appealing plight, making for a buoyant series opener with an engaging premise. Emma reads as white; supporting characters are racially diverse. Ages 6–9. Agent: Jennifer Laughran, Andrea Brown Literary. (Apr.)