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Meena Zee #1

Meena Meets Her Match

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Graduates of the Ramona Quimby series will adore Meena Zee as she navigates the triumphs and challenges of family, friendship, and personal secrets in this charming middle grade debut.

Meena’s life is full of color. She wears vibrant clothes, eats every shade of the rainbow, and plucks eye-catching trash from the neighborhood recycling bins.

But when Meena’s best friend, Sofía, stops playing with her at recess and she experiences an unexpected and scary incident at breakfast, nothing can fight off the gray.

That’s when Meena comes up with a plan to create the BEST and most COLORFUL Valentine’s Day Box in the class. With the help of her cousin, Eli, and her stuffed zebra, Raymond, Meena discovers that the best way to break through the blah is to let her true colors shine.

192 pages, Hardcover

First published January 29, 2019

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About the author

Karla Manternach

7 books26 followers
Karla Manternach grew up in small-town Iowa, a grubby kid in tube socks who once stopped an entire parade by running in front of a fire truck for candy. When she was older, Karla detasseld corn, read Star Trek novels, and studied languages that no one speaks anymore. Today, Karla lives with her family in small-town Wisconsin where she creates books for young readers and works as a freelance writer. She loves infomercials, bad apocalyptic movies, and Raspberry Zingers. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @mskarlam.

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5 stars
91 (43%)
4 stars
72 (34%)
3 stars
39 (18%)
2 stars
7 (3%)
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1 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 56 reviews
Profile Image for Wendy.
1,067 reviews13 followers
July 13, 2019
This was such a delight to read - still made me cry, but a wonderful read. Highly recommended. Would make a fantastic read-aloud book to children and/or a class.
Profile Image for Shari.
464 reviews14 followers
October 30, 2019
MEENA MEETS HER MATCH by Karla Manternach is as sweet as it looks -but SO much more! I admit, I cried at the end! Meena seems to be having lots more Downs than Ups in 3rd grade: her best friend has left her behind, her creative ideas keep getting her into trouble, and now her brain is acting freaky! How can Meena turn the grays back into rainbows, and finally feel like she is winning at something, especially when trips to the doctor make her parents - and Meena - scared and worried? Meena just wants to find a way to be At Her Best!
This terrific book is so relatable to 3rd graders, and I’m delighted to read a book that describes medical procedures in kid-friendly ways without sugar coating them or dismissing the fears that they can create. Kids who love Junie B. Jones books will love Meena - she is a beautiful mess! I really loved her family - her parents and sister are protective and nurturing in realistic ways.
I’m looking forward to reading more of Meena’s story in NEVER FEAR, MEENA’S HERE! which is coming March 24, 2020!
Profile Image for Liza Wiemer.
Author 5 books658 followers
December 23, 2019
Wow! I'm so impressed with the way Karla Manternach dealt with a child's epilepsy. This is a thoughtful, authentic middle grade novel. Meena has spunk. She's not the easiest kid to deal with. But that's because she's inquisitive and sometimes short-tempered. Inquisitive children often get into trouble because their questions and actions take them places many adults don't want to go—like diving in trash to discover treasure and spilling art supplies and making big messes with glue, feathers, paint.
Meena has awesome parents, but like all good parents when Meena has a seizure, they're terrified and want answers. Their overprotective nature isn't easy for Meena to deal with. And she's angry about having this mystery problem. Readers will go along with Meena and her family and their journey to discover what's wrong. It takes the stigma out of epilepsy and will be enlightening to children as well as adults.
I can't wait for the next installment! A must for MG collections!
Profile Image for Mary Lee.
2,956 reviews55 followers
June 23, 2019
It was quite unique to read a book about a child who has seizures and is eventually diagnosed with epilepsy, something I've never seen in a children's book. But having the story framed around a classroom teacher who uses behavior clips is a deal killer for me. Unless...and this is just occurring to me...you can read it and see how damaging those clip moves are to Meena's sense of self and self-worth and then change your practices (hint, hint). But if you're going to read it and say, Well she uses one in a book so it must be okay, then don't read this book.
Profile Image for LitPick Book Reviews.
669 reviews22 followers
February 8, 2019
Meena is a third-grader who loves colors. She likes to include every color of the rainbow in her meals. She likes to color her hair with permanent marker. But most of all, she loves to collect colorful trash to use in her art projects. Meena also likes to be the best. She wants to have the craziest hair at school, wants to win every race, and she wants to decorate the best box for Valentine’s Day. Mostly, she wants to beat her best friend, Sophia, who has been staying in at recess and ignoring Meena.

But Meena hasn’t been feeling well lately. She spaces out, her arms are jerky, and she even ends up in the hospital. As the doctors run tests to find out what’s wrong, Meena’s parents make sure that somebody is watching her all the time. Meena doesn’t like this and starts to worry that something bad is happening to her. Will she still be able to make colorful art and walk to school by herself? Has Meena met her match?

Meena Meets Her Match is a very fun story with a few scary moments thrown in. Meena is a very excited and artistic girl who thinks that other people’s trash is her treasure. She also likes to make everything a contest and sometimes forgets to pay attention or follow directions, which gets her in trouble in school. I like how she is funny and interesting, but she’s not perfect.

When Meena gets sick, it’s a little scary, but the writer does a good job of explaining what’s going on without giving anything away until the end. Meena has a very real condition that some readers might have never heard of, and it’s good to know about if they ever meet a person with the same condition. This story helps to teach us that some people’s bodies don’t work the right way all of the time, but it doesn’t have to keep us from doing the things we like to do.

Just as everyone has to try to understand what Meena is going through, Meena has to learn to understand that everyone else has struggles too. Not everything has to be a competition. Sometimes working together and not trying to win a prize can be even more fun.

I had a lot of fun reading this book and finished it in no time. The book also includes fun illustrations that show moments like Meena playing with her sister, Rosie, building an igloo made of milk jugs with her cousin, Eli, and working on her Valentine’s Day box. Meena is somebody that I would like to be friends with, even if she does want to compete all of the time. I also like how the chapter about Meena’s emergency explained how she was feeling and what was going on a reader who doesn’t have her condition can understand what it’s like.

This book is a good winter story to read around Valentine’s Day. I would recommend this book to any third grader, since Meena is in the third grade, and to anyone who likes stories about fun, creative characters.

Reviewed by a LitPick student book reviewer, Age 32
Profile Image for Jana.
2,590 reviews37 followers
February 15, 2019
I had the opportunity to read a NetGalley digital ARC of this middle grade novel in exchange for a review. This realistic fiction book tells the story of a precocious, think-outside-the-box third grade girl who is more interested in making crafts from items she finds in trash bins than working on her spelling or handwriting. At the beginning of the story, Meena is experiencing some friendship drama and is super excited about a class project to design a Valentine box. But as Meena starts to experience some strange things - lost time in which she doesn’t remember what has occurred, dizziness, stomachaches – the reader comes to understand that there is a serious medical issue at play.

Meena experiences a seizure which results in an emergency run to the hospital, a series of uncomfortable medical tests, and being watched constantly by everyone for signs that she might have another one. After much worry, Meena and her parents find out that she has epilepsy. And once they get this diagnosis, there is a sense of relief and hope that it will be easily managed.

I think that it’s terrific that this book has been written. I really don’t know much about epilepsy, as I’ve never really experienced anyone in my family or my classrooms that have dealt with this condition. The author folds a lot of useful information into the context of an easy-to-read narrative that just about all kids of this age group will recognize: the ups and downs of life in third grade with behavior clips moved up and down, homework assignments, and recess. Young readers will be able to empathize with Meena’s worries as she undergoes CT scans, an MRI, getting shots, and feeling like her parents and teachers are constantly spying on her. The author also includes a note at the end the tells readers about her experiences with her daughter, who is like Meena and has epilepsy also. This is definitely a book that should be shared with kids in grades 3 and up.
Profile Image for Sandy Brehl.
Author 8 books131 followers
March 9, 2019
I was eager to read this because a young MG/chapter book addition to the choices available to kids is always welcome.
Meena is a delight in many ways, although a corner of my adult brain kept muttering "she's a handful". In that sense I enjoyed her even more, and kids will, too. Before the BIG problem occurs, young readers will quickly identify and connect with her, either finding themselves in parts of her story or recognizing a friend.
Meena's parents seem to "get" her very well, supporting her quirky patterns and supporting (with limits) her nearly obsessive pursuit of creative projects, many of which emerge from the collections of interesting trash (not litter!) that are destined to find new life in her hands.
As the story develops, Meena's serious seizure raises the stakes dramatically, including the possibility of a brain tumor. Eventually, a diagnosis of treatable epilepsy avoids a one-liner resolution, offering realistic information about the condition with helpful back matter and resources added.
Throughout it all, Meena, her family, friends, and teacher react in credible ways that provide a scaffold for discussions with readers who might experience this or other challenges in life.
The underlying issue, the thread that is both universal and powerful, is Meena's anger and anxiety about being on the outs with her longtime friend. Meena's competitive nature, her Olympian capacity to jump to conclusions, and her unwillingness to consider views other than her own sound a bit extreme as I type them, but are absolutely true to the age depicted. Once a conclusion has been drawn, kids of this age are often determined to seize that view in a death grip, one that injures themselves more than the others.
I hope that this terrific new chapter book character might be a debut that leads to a series. Meera has a wealth of potential to make things interesting, and I'd read about the next stage in her life.
Profile Image for Sofiya Pasternack.
Author 4 books152 followers
January 29, 2019
What I Liked
Meena is immediately lovable and unique. Her descriptions of color and how she interprets things is so fun to read, and you get a sense of her personality right away. Her family is wonderful as well; there were a few tearjerker moments with Meena and her sister, or with her parents, that were just so sweet to read. The illustrations are a hoot as well!

What I Would Have Liked to See
I can’t think of anything. Just a very cute book all the way through!

My Favorite!
Meena has seizures and has to come to grips with what may be a very serious medical condition in her future. I loved how this wasn’t shied away from and was tackled head-on with very accurate descriptions of what it’s like to get an MRI and CT scan, and how that must feel for a kid Meena’s age to go through. I would think that kids who are having a similar experience to Meena would find Meena very relatable.

Spunky kid who loves every color of the rainbow must overcome a serious medical condition while also coping with her best friend inexplicably not wanting to spend time with her anymore. Sweet family dynamics, direct medical discussion, and Meena's unique point of view make this the perfect book for middle grade readers!
Profile Image for Teresa Bateman.
Author 34 books52 followers
March 2, 2019
Meena is an energetic girl who thinks everything should be a competition, and she should win. Her creativity manifests itself in many way. Now, however, she's dealing with some issues. Her best friend seems to have dumped her. Her little sister is annoying. likes to win. Discipline-wise, she's not doing so well at school. The biggest issue, however, is those moments she's losing, the dizziness, the weird metallic taste in her mouth. What is going on? This is a book about a child dealing with a health issue that could be extremely serious. The author beautifully shows the fear that comes from the unknown, and the toll it takes. Nevertheless, life goes on and Meena still has to deal with school and her once-friend, all while coping with this new health issue. It sounds dull and depressing, but the author does a fabulous job of creating a character readers can care about. I, quite literally, could not put the book down and read it in one sitting. Terrific!
Profile Image for Sarah Overvaag.
93 reviews1 follower
January 29, 2019
“Meena Meets Her Match” is a fantastic story that tells the story of so many children: kids who seem to have more downs than ups because of a condition they have no control over. Working in the public school system, I have seen similar situations but never from the child’s point of view. Meena’s frustration at navigating friendships in third grade is the least of her problems, but she tries hard to remain herself as the shadow of seizures looms over her daily life.
I found Meena to be endearing and very believable. The illustrations in the story are fun and will appeal to young readers. This book, and the forthcoming sequel will be perfect to recommend to children who are struggling with evolving friendships, dealing with emotional and life changes, and kids who love a great story.
Profile Image for Shana OkieCozyReader.
874 reviews31 followers
April 23, 2020
This is definitely a heavier young reader book, with a 9 year old main character Meena, who maybe half way through the book has a seizure and goes through the process of having a CT Scan and a MRI. It would be helpful if children had to have a scary test like that or if their family member did, so they know a little about the tests.

Love the author’s note at the end - “Like most children, however, Meena just wants to march on with her usual activities in the face of her symptoms. She is herself, not her diagnosis. Isn’t that true for all of us? We all have Ups and Downs” . ... and she goes on to say we don’t get to choose what happens to us, just how we respond. That life isn’t perfect, but it still can be beautiful.

And this to me, is the perfect explanation of this book.
Profile Image for Anna.
1,320 reviews8 followers
May 12, 2019
I really enjoyed Meena Meets Her Match. While the constant talk of "color vs. gray" gets a little old, Meena herself is a very enjoyable main character to read about and her world feels very real. This is also the only elementary or MG book I am aware of with a MC with epilepsy. The course of Meena's first seizures, testing, and eventual diagnosis was described very well. I remember clearly what it was like when my brother had epilepsy when he was younger, and Manternach perfectly captures the complex feelings families can have about the whole situation. I hope this book gets a lot of attention!
Profile Image for Yapha.
2,620 reviews72 followers
June 30, 2019
Meena is a fun, spunky third grader who likes to create art pieces from the trash and recycling she finds around school and her house. This year has been hard for her -- she is struggling to live up to her teacher's expectations and her best friend since kindergarten has pulled away. What makes it more confusing are the strange episodes where she spaces out or her arms jerk funny. It all leads up to a full seizure one morning at home. Meena, her parents, and her younger sister are realistically frightened as Meena undergoes a battery of tests to find out what is going on and why. An age appropriate look at epilepsy. Highly recommended for grades 3 & up.
Profile Image for Jes Smith.
543 reviews1 follower
November 20, 2019
Meena likes to win. Meena likes to collect recycling and turn it into art. She doesn't like her best friend Sophia any more because Sophia never goes outside at recess and Meena doesn't know what she did to make Sophia mad. Meena struggles with a new diagnosis, staying out of trouble, and figuring out how she can get her best friend back.

A must have for library collections. Meena struggles with everyday problems in addition to having a medical condition she must cope with. Manternach really understands the feelings and emotions of children this age and describes well experiences of anxiety, fear, anger, and sadness. This would make a great classroom book discussion or read aloud.
Profile Image for Rachel.
25 reviews2 followers
December 6, 2021
We've been reading the Amelia Bedelia chapter books, which my kiddo loves, but I needed a bit of a break. Meena seemed a great fit. The description of a fiery girl trying to be the best and struggling through school drama.

My main issue with this book was, I felt a bit blindsided by the actual storyline. This book is very focused around a serious medical scare for the main character, Meena. Her family is embroiled in a scary medical diagnosis, doctors, and tests. This would be a great book for opening up conversations about epilepsy, seizures, or medical challenges with kids. It was at points pretty scary for my kid, I would have waited had I known what I was getting into.
Profile Image for Miz Lizzie.
1,130 reviews
September 23, 2022
Third grader Meena has a rather prominent competitive streak and is a compulsive trash collector who transforms her finds into art. She is in the middle of a friendship crisis when she has her first seizure and is ultimately diagnosed with epilepsy. Her concerns and frustrations focus as much or more on the everyday -- why her best friend is no longer her best friend and why everyone is watching her all the time now -- as to her medical condition. With her outsized personality and creative streak, Meena makes a great contemporary companion to Beverly Cleary's Ramona books for younger chapter book readers.
203 reviews
October 19, 2018
Meena is a third grade student, and facing some challenges. She feels that her best friend no longer likes her, based on misunderstandings, and is sad and sometimes angry. Then she has a seizure, eventually diagnosed as epilepsy. There are no bad people involved. In the end, she and her best friend Sofia realize that they both still want to be friends. Meena's parents are both loving and caring, although Meena would like to eat more candy and watch more TV than they allow.

I don't have any young readers handy, but am guessing they would find it a four-star book.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
5 reviews
December 29, 2018
This was a great read - I loved Meena and her love of life (all things garbage, too)! Colorful and hopeful, supportive parents show how the unknown can be dealt with in a kind, gentle non-judgmental way. For the age group, I thought the language was great in explaining what Meena was going through when she had seizures. I really can't find many other fiction books that deal with epilepsy in such an age appropriate way. I think kids who love Clementine, Ramona, Junie B. Jones and Ivy and Bean will love this.
Profile Image for Kayla.
237 reviews13 followers
March 1, 2019
Beautifully written story about a creative nine year old named Meena. Meena is trying to figure out why her best friend no longer likes her. Then one morning she has a seizure. Unsure of the cause and unable to talk to her former friend, Meena uses a school project to release her feelings. In the end, she is able to reconcile with her friend and realizes what a misunderstanding it all was. Great read for middle school students, this book explores friendships, the importance of talking and not making assumptions, and seizures and epilepsy. Can't wait to introduce Meena to my daughter!
Profile Image for Rachel.
13 reviews
March 21, 2019
My kids (girls ages 7 & 10) and I just finished reading Meena aloud with one another. We loved it! Had been reading it before bed each night and as we got nearer to the end, my kids begged to stay up past their bedtime for "just one more chapter!" Excellent story and story-telling. So good to help kids understand health issues, make them less frightening, and great message about friendship and giving others the benefit of the doubt -- you never know what's going on in another person's life. Not to mention the fact that the character is vibrant and fun -- some laugh-out-loud moments for sure!
Profile Image for Kendall Ball.
139 reviews6 followers
March 21, 2019
A fantastic early chapter book about friendship, managing emotions, and battling an unknown illness. What I love most about this book is the way Meena handles her “Ups and Downs” as she calls them. She is very aware of her feelings and what she needs to do to manage them. This book would make a great chapter book to read together as a family and discuss. It is also pretty funny and Meena is a well-developed character. It should hold the attention of any kid who enjoys Junie B. Jones, Judy Moody, and other books with a humorous, young protagonist written in 1st person.
Profile Image for Hillary Lynn.
64 reviews
June 12, 2022
June family book club book! Meena is a girl with a colorful personality, an artistic eye and a big heart who struggles with losing a friend. Meena also has a seizure, which sends her to the hospital with a flurry of testing to try to determine what is wrong. Meena contemplates her “Downs,” focuses on the positive and experiencing more “Ups,” and aims to mend one of her most long lasting friendships. This is a solid book for a elementary aged student featuring a strong female character facing some pretty big obstacles.
Profile Image for Michelle.
867 reviews37 followers
March 14, 2019
Meena is a quirky, fun character who is nine years old. She is younger than most middle grade protagonists that I read, which took some getting used to. The family dynamic was done well although with the narrator being so young, the parents were kind of flat. I thought the few illustrations in the book enhanced the story. Meena experiences a seizure in the book, and I really appreciate that representation.
108 reviews
April 26, 2019
I was transported into the story and couldn't put the book down. My heart was with Meena, her enthusiasm & creativity, and especially during her journey of discovering epilepsy. Bonus: Meena & I both love rainbows! If you write, this is an excellent mentor text for many skills, especially sensory details. Karla writes vivid descriptions, readers feel we are there with Meena and the other relatable characters. We feel the journey from many perspectives.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
351 reviews
April 16, 2020
A testament to the power of friendship. I have been continuing with Sequoyah books for 2021. I enjoyed this book a lot more than I anticipated. The cover was very misleading. I expected a fun, light-hearted hijinks book. There was fun and hijinks, but there were also some very serious topics covered. This will be a great read for any kid who has had trouble with friends, who has struggled in school, or ever had a health problem. So many readers will relate to this book. Recommend for any kid.
Profile Image for bjneary.
2,382 reviews80 followers
August 21, 2022
I loved this first book in the Meena Zee series, I will definitely be reading these and passing along to my granddaughters! Meena looks at the world in terms of bright colors and how "anything" (including trash & other disgusting stuff) cab be used for her art projects in school and at home. But the bright colors darken when Meena has a medical event that turns her world upside down. Also her best friend, Sophie stays in now at recess and Meena is upset and angry about this. I loved all the characters, the plot was so enjoyable, and all of the resolutions were authentic. I especially liked the Author Note at the end. I also liked that this book was for 3rd graders, a middle grade beginner book, readers will enjoy and ask for more!
Profile Image for Karol Silverstein.
Author 3 books42 followers
February 6, 2019
Such a delightful and heartfelt book! Meena is wondrously flawed yet totally likable. It was great fun to spend time in the mind of such a creative, complicated, earnest and messy kid. I was rooting for her the whole way. Meena Meets Her Match shows young readers that things aren't always what they seem and that sometimes it takes a bumpy, twisty-turny and oh-so-colorful ride to get to the truth.
Profile Image for Karen Gibson.
1,004 reviews5 followers
April 2, 2019
I chose this book mostly because it looked like it might be a good book for younger readers. I really enjoyed it. The main character Meena, is relatable and fun. She is having some health problems and has to have several scary procedure such as an MRI. The author does a great job of showing the anxiety and fear this produces in a child.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 56 reviews

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