Annika Riz, Math Whiz

illus. by Rob Shepperson. 128p. (Franklin School Friends: Bk. 2). Farrar/Margaret Ferguson. May 2014. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780374303358; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780374303365. LC 2013012328.
Gr 2–4—Third-grader Annika Riz loves math as much as her friends Izzy Barr and Kelsey Green dislike it. While she is attentive during math, her friends are easily distracted, so she whispers answers to help them avoid agitating their stern teacher. During the week of the school carnival, it seems like there is nothing else that any of the other students can think about, but Annika is secretly focused on winning the public library's citywide sudoku contest. She believes that if she can beat all of the city's third-graders, her friends will see that math is cool after all. After some disappointments along the way, Annika's love of the subject helps her save her class's carnival booth and convinces her that her attempts to help her friends may have done more harm than good. As in Kelsey Green, Reading Queen (Farrar, 2013), Mills has developed characters who are realistically flawed and friendships that are supportive throughout. She does an excellent job of demonstrating why Annika's cheating is problematic without any heavy-handed moralizing. The occasional illustrations are perfectly paced and a nice supplement to the text.—Amanda Augsburger, Moline Public Library, IL
If Annika Riz is going to win the citywide sudoku contest, she'll have to out-sudoku third-grade classmate Simon (from Kelsey Green, Reading Queen). The school carnival is also coming up, and friends Annika, Kelsey, and Izzy fail (three times) at baking cookies for it. Mills has her characters struggle with right and wrong behavior, as Annika accepts that simply trying can be worthwhile.
Annika Riz certainly is a math whiz, but if she's going to win the citywide sudoku contest, she'll have to out-sudoku third-grade classmate and "everything whiz" Simon. Fans of the first book, Kelsey Green, Reading Queen (rev. 5/13), will remember Simon as Kelsey's biggest competition in the all-school reading contest. The school carnival is also coming up, and the third grade's assignment is to bring in homemade cookies. Friends Annika, Kelsey, and Izzy try three times to bake a batch, but each attempt ends in cookie disaster. After they decide to make lemonade instead, Annika uses her mad skills to show her number-hating friends they're selling the lemonade at too low a price, proving that math can be useful, not to mention profitable. As always, Mills has her characters struggle with right and wrong behavior, and here Annika accepts that everyone is different and that sometimes simply trying is a worthwhile endeavor. Readers will enjoy guessing the topic and title of the next book -- runner Izzy (last name Barr) is in training for a 10K. jennifer m. brabander

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