Geeky F@b 5 returns with volume 2, Mystery of the Missing Monarchs, an educational adventure full of friendship and girl power. Geeky F@b 5 is a collaboration between pre-teen author Lucy Lareau and her mother, Liz Lareau, that tackles “geeky” STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) topics for young readers. The first book, It’s Not Rocket Science, brought together the group of friends for their first challenge: creating a new school playground. In volume 2, the girls discover an abandoned lot near their school full of native plants, monarch butterflies, and honeybees.They fall in love with their “secret garden,” but it’s soon threatened by a mysterious developer that wants to bulldoze the area to build a new convenience store. The girls must rush to discover the identity of the developer and find a way to save the endangered insects.
Although I personally enjoyed the first book more and felt the plot and writing was a little stronger, Mystery of the Missing Monarchs is still a worthy addition to the series. There is a healthy dose of educational content about monarch butterflies and the role they play in the ecosystem, as well as the dangers they currently face. As with the first book, the girls face a problem that seems insurmountable—something that would be a challenge even for grown-ups—but their determination and creative thinking, as well as the support of the adults around them, carry them through. This volume shares the same energetic, upbeat tone as the first, and does a good job making STEM topics accessible and interesting for young readers. Mystery of the Missing Monarchs can stand alone, despite being a sequel, so there is no worry about adhering strictly to the series order. The first chapter introduces the characters and setting, and makes for an easy entry point for readers.
An element I continued to appreciate in this comic is the diversity of the main group of friends. They are not only racially diverse, but one is adopted, and they represent a wide variety of interests and hobbies ranging from those often seen as masculine (math, computer programming, sports, etc.) to those often seen as feminine (art, fashion, singing, etc.). The comic does not gender these hobbies and doesn’t value one type at the expense of the other. In this volume, we are also introduced to the brother of one of the girls, who is a person of color with a disability.
One thing I particularly liked about the comic was that the eventual solution to the main conflict was small-scale and realistic, making it seem achievable and inspiring for readers eager to follow in the girls’ footsteps. As with the first book, things tend to fall into place fairly conveniently for the story (characteristic of many books for young readers) but I felt the girls’ solution in this volume was more reachable than in the last. The comedy provided by Hubble the cat was a bit too much for me at times, but the humor might be just right for the target age group.
Artists Ryan Jampole and Jen Hernandez continue to serve up cute, distinctive characters in panels with lots of movement, energy, and color. There is a simplicity to it, with most of the attention focused on the foreground and the characters, which pairs well with the story and helps to move it along.
The Geeky F@b 5 series is a fun way to emphasize and teach positive messages about girls in STEM, female friendship, and children’s capacity for thinking about and addressing large-scale problems in the world. These important ideas are timely and useful for kids of all genders to be exposed to. It will be interesting to see how the series continues to develop as more books are created.
Geeky F@b 5, vol.2: Mystery of the Missing Monarchs
By Lucy Lareau Liz Lareau
Art by Ryan Jampole Jen Hernandez
Publisher Age Rating: 7-11
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Character Traits: Black, Latinx, South Asian,