Talia’s Codebook for Mathletes

Talia’s Codebook for Mathletes
Age Range
Release Date
June 13, 2023
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Talia loves math puzzles and code-breaking, but the new social rules of middle school have her stumped. Her best friend, Dash, is now embarrassed to be best friends with a girl, so he only wants to hang out with Talia outside of school. And although Talia is excited to make the mathlete team, the strict team captain doubts her abilities . . . just because she’s a girl. But Talia has a great idea: she’ll start her own all-girls mathlete team! As the first competition approaches, Talia is determined to bring her fledgling team to victory, get her best friend back, and break the social code of preteen life. In the spirit of her best-selling Amelia’s Notebook series, Marissa Moss brings Talia’s adventures to life through charming text, illustrations, doodles, graphs, and puzzles. This delightful new series is for all mathletes, doodlers, and anyone who has ever had to navigate the unfamiliar conventions of a new school.

Editor review

1 review
Surviving middle school with math
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
What worked:
The book’s synopsis talks about Talia creating an all-girl mathlete team but that doesn’t happen until the midpoint of the book. The main focus that will resonate with young readers is trying to survive the social expectations of middle school. Dash’s wish to not associate with her at school is a result of his fear of being teased about having a girlfriend. The early pages share her observations about how elementary school differs from sixth grade. Math is harder now (but more fun) but navigating classmates is even more challenging. Talia develops an overwhelming interest in codes and puzzles and wants to encourage others to explore them too. She can’t understand why the mathlete team doesn’t want to use them, they’re great practice for logical thinking and building teamwork, so she begins to imagine other ways to spread the word about coding.
The story is enriched with illustrations, charts, or diagrams on every page. The premise of the book is that it’s Talia’s journal of her experiences in middle school and the pictures depict her love for drawing and codes. Comic drawings with speech bubbles can be found on most pages to reflect Talia’s interactions with Dash, her classmates, and activities at home and in school. The pages often share Talia’s observations and deductions that range from the “Where You Sit at Lunch Code”, to “Tomorrow can be the best word or the worst word”, to “Little Brothers Aren’t as Dumb as They Seem”. Other sections present different types of codes with examples that young readers will probably try with their own friends. The blend of story and pictures will make this book very approachable and entertaining for kids.
Friendship is a major part of the plot and Talia learns some valuable lessons. The common thread throughout the book is Talia’s drive to have Dash display their friendship at school. This shows the conflicted feelings of middle-grade students as they explore a new school culture of adolescents and the complicated world of boy-girl relationships. Talia has two close girlfriends who are very supportive even though they don’t have a passion for math. They give her honest opinions even when Talia doesn’t want to hear them because they’re things Talia needs to hear. They offer encouraging and motivating words when Talia needs them and help her form the all-girls mathlete team.
What didn’t work as well:
Readers who don’t like to think will probably find this book challenging. Math, problem-solving, and codes dominate the plot as Talia deals with common middle-grade issues. However, the illustrations and explanations of those topics make everything easier to understand so readers can focus more on Talia’s friendships and determination to bring positive change.
The Final Verdict:
This book addresses the cultural biases that keep girls from pursuing interests in math and competition. It should motivate young girls to follow Talia’s example and refuse to let anyone stop them from following their dreams. Overall, the writing style and pictures make this book very enjoyable and I recommend you give it a shot.
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