Speak Up! by Rebecca Burgess is a fun graphic novel about learning to boldly be who you are. In addition, the main character, Mia, has autism and is learning to “speak up” for herself.
It’s a great read for tweens which is why I chose Speak Up! for my kid’s graphic novel online book club in 2023. This was a favorite for many of the students in the class.
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Length: 272 pages
First Published: 2022
Publisher’s Description: Speak Up!
“Twelve-year-old Mia is just trying to navigate a world that doesn’t understand her true autistic self. While she wishes she could stand up to her bullies, she’s always been able to express her feelings through singing and songwriting, even more so with her best friend, Charlie, who is nonbinary, putting together the best beats for her.
Together, they’ve taken the internet by storm; little do Mia’s classmates know that she’s the viral singer Elle-Q! But while the chance to perform live for a local talent show has Charlie excited, Mia isn’t so sure.
She’ll have to decide whether she’ll let her worries about what other people think get in the way of not only her friendship with Charlie, but also showing everyone, including the bullies, who she is and what she has to say.”
My Goodreads Review
Twelve-year-old Mia has a hard time expressing her autistic self in a world that doesn’t understand her, but thankfully her best friend, Charlie, has always been on her side. Together, she and Charlie have become an internet-famous musical sensation known as Ellie Q. Mia sings her original songs while Charlie puts together the beats. No one knows that the student they bully, Mia, is also their favorite singer, Ellie Q, but everyone is about to find out the truth at the school talent show.
This is one of my favorite graphic novels for so many reasons. I love the modern feel of the story – from having a OoTube channel to texting and video calls, this story reflects the world kids live in today. I also thought the representation of an autistic character was important and well done in this story.
In addition, Mia is a relatable character for many middle-grade readers, even those who don’t have autism. She is struggling with people who are bullying her, communicating with her mother, stage fright, and being different. So many middle-grade students can relate to these feelings.
My only issue with the book is the lack of positive adult role models. Mia’s mother isn’t really paying close attention to her daughter and listening to her, instead, she overreacts and doesn’t help her in ways that she needs. There is also a real lack of teacher presence in the classroom while horrible bullying is happening. Despite this, I loved the characters, the graphics, and the message of this graphic novel.
NOTE: Parents should know that Mia forges her mom’s signature on the talent show permission form and sneaks out to get there.
Speak Up: Discussion Questions for Your Homeschool Study
1. Mia is a relatable character, even to readers who don’t have autisum. In what ways did you relate to Mia? How do you think other readers might relate to her?
2. Do you think it was okay for Charlie to sign them up for the talent show without Mia’s permission? What motivated Charlie to do it? What advice would you have given Charlie in this situation?
3. Discuss at the various ways Mia’s frustration and struggles due to her autism are shown in the graphics. Look at pages such as page 82 and 205.
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