Mya McLure is a young environmentalist who knows that making an impact requires efforts both personal and political. While she leads her classmates in petitioning local government to stop cutting down trees, she also finds herself faced with a much less public dilemma, as a large number of toads come to her home in search of shelter.
Enlisting the help of her classroom teacher Miss Russell, Mya learns how to build a habitat for the toads in the woods near her house. But misadventure befalls the two as they’re setting up the little toad cave that Mya has built to her teacher’s instructions. Will Mya be able to use her quick wit to help get Miss Russell out of trouble?
This was a very cute picture book that revolves around how humans can build welcoming habitats for toads via easy-to-make toad caves. It even has instructions in the back, if you want to try crafting one at home. Jennifer Ball-Cordero’s illustrations are especially charming, featuring a multicultural cast and surprisingly adorable amphibians. I do feel that there may have been a little bit of miscommunication on one page, where Miss Russell is running towards a cave that is clearly very different from the habitat she and Mya are building, but the target audience of second graders might not even notice that at all.
While I love the premise of Douglas Haddad’s story, I do think that the execution could use work. First of all, I didn’t even realize that this story was meant to be in verse until several pages in, and soon found myself wishing that it wasn’t. The lines rarely scan and the phrasing contorts itself in unsuccessful efforts to fit a rhythm: better to have just used prose, especially if you’re going to give up on rhyming on the very last page. I’m also assuming there’s meant to be a throughline between the Save The Trees petition and the creation of more toad habitats, but the connection is never explained. It’s also a little weird that Mya has to keep her parents in the dark about the toads, tho I can one hundred percent understand why her parents would be less than thrilled at the choice she makes in her new friends’ temporary housing.
Overall, this is a well-meaning effort at getting kids more involved in science and environmental activities by showing them how they too can make an impact at home. I am always pro-books with bonus crafting activities and the one included here is eminently kid-doable. With really terrific illustrations throughout, this one is a brainy, if somewhat tongue-tied charmer.
Mya McLure, The Brave Science Girl: The Toad Cave by Douglas Haddad & Jennifer Ball-Cordero was published November 7 2023 by Muddy Boots and is available from all good booksellers, including