Middle school is tough. Middle school might just be unbearable if you lived in a zoo (literally!), if your best friend just moved to the other side of the world, or if your twin brother incessantly leaves reptiles in your bed. All this, and more, is happening to Ana (named after an anaconda, for Pete's sake!) this year, and she just wants to hide under a rock until middle school is finished. She feels like her efforts to stay close to her best friend are failing, and she's the target of the Sneerers, the kind of predatory animals one might face in a middle school. At the pinnacle of her misery, her famous zoologist grandfather arrives in town and puts her entire family on his reality TV show, giving the Sneerers even more ammunition against her. Will Ana EVER survive this year in middle school?
I think How to Outrun a Crocodile When Your Shoes Untied will really hit a mark for many tween and early teen girls looking for a protagonist with the exact self-confidence issues that Ana displays. She struggles in math, desperately needs a new friend, and fearfully treads through interactions with the school's "mean girls". About half-way through the book, Ana's negativity started to grate on me a tad, although I truly understand that many young girls will completely identify with her feelings. Predictably, but with great heart, Ana found her courage and some comfort in her skin by the end. I loved the nerdy zoology humor, and the animal tidbits at the beginning of each chapter were a fun touch. I'm actually quite anxious to see where Ana's story goes in the sequel, due in January 2015.
You can find How to Outrun a Crocodile When Your Shoes Untied in the Middle Grade Books section of The Book Children Store.