Jiu-Jitsu Girl

North Star. Jan. 2023. 256p. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781631636929.
Gr 4-6–Angie Larsen is not having an easy time. She started sixth grade at a new school where, in an effort to overcome her past invisibility, she is determined to be liked by the popular girls (easier said than done). Even worse is that her mother is forcing her to take jiu-jitsu classes, which she hates! Angie’s desire to impress the bullying popular girls has terrible consequences as she starts to question her body image and cruelly rejects a burgeoning friendship with her supportive science project partner. As the jiu-jitsu classes build Angie’s physical strength and assurance, they also encourage her to reexamine what kind of person, daughter, and friend she wants to be. It turns out that jiu-jitsu and not being one of the popular kids are actually pretty great after all. There is some mild gross-out humor, mostly involving sweat and boogers as part of the close contact that comes with grappling on the jiu-jitsu mat. Readers learn that Angie’s mother pushes the jiu-jitsu classes because she had an experience where she was not able to defend herself. This is concerning, but the idea is quickly dismissed without any illuminating details. The prevailing message is that real friends are people who make you feel good about yourself and support you, not those who make themselves bigger at the expense of others.
VERDICT This is a positive journey to true friendship and self-confidence, certain to appeal to martial arts fans.

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