Squad Goals

Little, Brown. Apr. 2021. 304p. pap. $7.99. ISBN 9780316427142.
Gr 3-7–Magic Olive Poindexter is a young Black girl who has been surrounded by athletic greatness her entire life—her father is a retired NBA star, her older sister is a Laker Girl, and her grandmother was the first Black cheerleader ever at her middle school. Magic, instead, is a member of the coding club. She still wants to be on the middle school cheer squad, called the HoneyBees, so she heads off for the three-week Planet Pom Poms summer cheer camp. With little athletic ability, though, Magic struggles through the start of cheer camp. A group of unlikely cheer camp attendees who call themselves the StumbleBees encourage Magic and one another through three weeks of cheer training and middle school drama. The idea behind this book, believing in yourself and working hard, is a good one, but it isn’t executed well. From early on, it isn’t clear if Magic actually wants to be a cheerleader or if she is simply trying to do what her family expects of her in order to make them proud. Throughout the book there is a lot of focus on body image, specifically how people should be fit and skinny. Magic has secret food stashes around so she can steal a snack when people aren’t looking. There are also several instances of gender stereotyping around athletic activities.
VERDICT This novel’s level of unchallenged body shaming and judgment is unsettling and harmful in a children’s book. There are much better books that center on unlikely friendships and underdog athletes.

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