Twelve-year-old Raksha Kumar has a “fashion brain” and a “science brain.”
Her science-geek self has to complete a final project over the summer to earn a badge (and, potentially, a trip to Hawaii). With her Science Squad, a citizen-science organization for children, she must find bees that may be infected with parasites, collecting them and watching them for signs of infection. But her fashionista self wants to attend Junior Fashion Camp at the same time, which she believes is her “golden ticket, the way out of all nerd-dom and into being recognized as more than a future lab nut.” By the end of a whirlwind summer, biracial Raksha realizes that she doesn’t have to choose between her two passions—and that “no one cares” if she is “two different things. Indian and Chinese, fashion and science—everything can coexist peacefully.” Raksha tells her story in journal form, with the occasional crossed-out word or phrase adding zest, and she includes factual sidebars (“Honeybee queens are treated like babies, not royalty. Workers get to travel outside the hive, but queens stay inside, laying eggs”). Olbey’s black-and-white illustrations also offer readers additional ways to engage with the story’s science. They also, sadly, perpetuate the misinformation that feral honeybees live in wasps’ nests. This lead title for a new, middle-grade nature- and science-focused series features a mixed-race protagonist whose ethnicity isn’t the main thrust of the narrative. Companion title Hatchling Hero publishes simultaneously, recounting a young Latina's involvement in sea turtle rescue.
Informational and curriculum-friendly, a decent choice for fans of other STEAM-themed tales. (additional facts, glossary, bibliography) (Fiction. 8-12)