I am going to win today. It’s all about visualization. I imagine myself accepting the gold medal. If I can see it, I can make it happen. When I win this track meet, I’ll be the best at school at everything. Best in all my subjects and best at track. Then, hopefully, it won’t matter so much that my best friend isn’t talking to me.
I sigh. I bite my bottom lip, but when I noticed myself doing it, I stop. It’s a bad habit. I look over my list and sigh when I get to the part about the fruits and vegetables. I like strawberries and bananas just fine, and broccoli isn’t the worst. But eating five fruits and veggies a day seems impossible. I always get to four and then start stressing about number five.
But I will keep trying. I will strive. I love that word. It makes me feel like I’m doing well even when I say it.
“Strive,” I say out loud.
Part of the “Orca Currents” series of high-interest low-reading-level books with contemporary themes, Alice Kuipers novel Pia’s Plans examines timely and relevant issues of adolescent anxiety and perfectionism through the story of a girl trying to cope with her parents’ divorce by controlling everything she can.
Ever since her parents got divorced, Pia has worked hard to make sure everything in her life is absolutely perfect. Each morning, she pulls out her list of goals for the day to help ensure everything runs smoothly and according to plan, including an equal number of exercises each morning and eating exactly five fruits and veggies. And, of course, win gold in the 400-meter race at the upcoming Aces track meet.
Although a somewhat predictable plot maneuver, everything keeps going very, very wrong for Pia. She and her sister get into a fight. She falls down the stairs and hurts her ankle. She spills chocolate milk all over her lucky outfit. And her best friend still isn’t speaking to her since she got mad at him for throwing her a surprise birthday party. Surprises are not a good thing for someone who always needs to be in the know and in control like Pia. And the big red cherry on top of this total awful day: pretending her ankle is just fine as she prepares for the track meet. She has to win the race. She just has to!
Offering a relatable and realistic story, Pia’s Plan is a solid example of a high-interest low-reading-level book done well. This novel has heart, and readers are sure to root for Pia as she traverses what may be one of the rockiest days ever. Despite the book’s short chapters and simplified sentence structures, Alice Kuiper’s writing flows smoothly. New enhanced print features, such as a dyslexia-friendly font, increased spacing between words and lines, and cream-coloured paper to minimize contrast, are all effective in improving reading accessibility for striving readers.
Amy Westbury teaches Grade 6 and Grade 7 at Abbey Lane Public School in Oakville, Ontario.