Confession time: I bought the first Mia Mayhem book without reading it earlier this year to tuck into a birthday gift for an eight-year-old superhero aficionado. Clearly, that was a good decision; Kara West’s MIA MAYHEM BREAKS DOWN WALLS (#4 in the series) was nominated for Cybils also.
Mia is a superhero who lives a double life as an ordinary little girl (Mia Macarooney), but that’s where the cliche ends. She comes from a long line of female superheroes and trains at night at the Program for In-Training Superheroes (PITS) where she’s Mia Mayhem.
Mia’s superstrength and superspeed don’t translate immediately to heroics; they translate as klutzy. There are many hilarious (illustrated!) mishaps with flooded bathrooms and ridiculousy messy rooms. All the PITS kids seem to struggle somewhat in this way, so Mia doesn’t feel as self-concious.
When Mia’s mom gives her a family heirloom charm that she’s paranoid about losing, creating more mayhem than usual, she and her friends need to focus and learn to be mindful in using their powers.
Can we talk about the over-the top names? Normal Elementary School, BFF Allie Oomph, and professor Dyna Mite.
The PITS crew is very diverse but it’s not integral to the plot, you know from the ilustrations. (Allie appears to have two prosthetic feet and is still a superhero! I can’t tell you how much I love this. Not comparing spent-a-lot-of-time-in-a-spinal-brace to prosthetics, but people who need hardware just need more ink in general).
Leeza Hernandez’s comic book-esque illustrations invoke Lichtenstein without any of the insufferably pretentious 60s Studio 54 culture. Every page has illustrations, making this funny and sweet book a page-turner.
Verdict: Giving this to my seven- and eight-year old. Even though the latter is a boy, the over-the-top chaos and antics with both boy and girl friends will carry the day.
MIA MAYHEM BREAKS DOWN WALLS is out now from Scholastic.