Thursday, March 28, 2024

Connor and the Taekwondo Tournament by Jen Malia

Today's read hit the shelves about two weeks ago and is the third (I believe) in the series. These books surround a club of five kids, who are neurodivergent, and focuses on an adventure for each of them. I haven't read either of the first two books, but I don't think that will be a problem, since these seem to be written as stand-alones if desired. I'm looking forward to see how the author handles packing the various aspects into a chapter book level.

So, let's take a peek!

The Infinity Rainbow Club
by Jen Malia
Illustrated by Peter Francis
Beaming Books
Chapter Book
123 pages
ages 6 to 9

Perseverance , thought Connor. To not give up even when it is hard to keep going . Connor loves practicing taekwondo at his dojang. Having ADHD means he has to work a little harder to keep his focus during sparring sessions, but that doesn't stop him from mastering new forms and rising through the taekwondo ranks. However, when Wyatt--Connor's nemesis--starts training at the same dojang, staying focused suddenly becomes a lot harder. Can Connor persevere and find his focus in time for the big tournament? 

Written by a neurodivergent author with three neurodivergent children, Connor and the Taekwondo Tournament meets a longstanding need for chapter books written from the perspectives of kids with ADHD and is the perfect addition to any young reader's shelf. The Infinity Rainbow Club is a chapter book series featuring five neurodivergent children in a club at their elementary school. The club provides a safe space for stims and different communication styles to be accepted and celebrated.

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Connor isn't happy. While he's done pretty well with his Taekwondo classes, everything gets messed up when his nemesis joins the same dojang. Not to mention that Connor loses when he faces him the first time at training. Connor also knows why he lost and what he needs to work on. He has to focus...not easy considering he has ADHD. While he usually can keep that in pretty good control, the mere presence of his nemesis has his brain shifted into high-gear. He has help and support, but whether or not it will be enough to help him remains to be seen.

Parents should be warned: more than a few readers will, most likely, want to take Taekwondo classes after reading this. The author doesn't shy away from details surrounding Taekwondo and makes this marital arts direction feel familiar and exciting by the time the book is done. The first pages already have Connor facing his nemesis in training, which draws in and sets the pace for the rest of the read. While Connor does have to face his relationship to this person, since they attend the same dojang, this read is more about Connor's struggles to get to where he wants to be. So, there's quite a bit of character growth.

The ADHD comes across very naturally and never takes on a forced atmosphere. Connor is very easy to root for, and his thoughts and concerns aren't only very self-aware but are completely understandable. He's determined and ready to put in the effort and work to meet his goals. He has a great support team with family and friends, which adds a wholesome touch. This stays very appropriate for the age group, while still diving into deeper themes. And it's pulled off well. It inspires those who can relate with Connor and helps strengthen awareness for those, who don't face the world in quite the same way.

Even reluctant readers will find this enjoyable, and not only because of the Taekwondo. The chapters are kept short, and while the vocabulary fits to the reading level, it also furthers and pushes reading skills without frustrating. The added illustrations give humor and familiarity at the right times, and offer a bit of fun throughout the read. It's an enjoyable read, carries quite a bit of depth, and inspires, too.

And here she is...

Jen Malia is a professor of English and the creative writing coordinator at Norfolk State University. Originally from Pittsburgh, Jen currently lives in Virginia Beach with her husband and three kids. Jen has written for the New York Times, the Washington PostNew York MagazineWoman's DayGlamourSelf, and others. Jen is the author of Too Sticky! Sensory Issues with Autism as well as the Infinity Rainbow Club series. Jen was diagnosed with ASD in her late thirties and has three neurodivergent kids with different combinations of ASD, ADHD, OCD, dyslexia, and dysgraphia.

Twitter: @JenMaliaBooks
Instagram: @jenmaliabooks
Facebook: @MomWithAutism

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