A science-minded fourth-grader observes her classmates and the ants in her ant farm with equal care.
Mills’ new series stars 10-year-old Nora Alpers but also features classmates at Plainfield Elementary School from her Mason Dixon series. In their first two weeks after winter break, Nora, Mason, and Brody Baxter deal with a skunked dog, play basketball, and write persuasive essays. Nora dresses up for a fancy high tea with cat-loving Emma Averill and takes no side in the best-pet war that divides her classmates. Nora is already a scientist, a myrmecologist; she watches and wonders about ants. She has a scientist’s mind, endless questions, and the habit of careful attention. She fills her newest notebook with interesting facts about ants she’s learned from library books (from the grown-up section) and her own observations. Each chapter in this engaging third-person narrative ends with an ant fact and includes a grayscale illustration. As always in this author’s school stories, the idiosyncratic characters are believable and the school life, realistic. Inspired by an entry in a Guinness World Record book, Nora hopes to become the youngest person ever to get an article published in a peer-reviewed science magazine. She doesn’t achieve that lofty goal, but what she does accomplish is quite satisfying.
Middle-grade readers will hope for more Nora Notebooks, soon. (Fiction. 7-10)