Author: Weissman, Elissa Brent
Sixth-graders Ashley and her best friend Maya were banished from the live "News at Nine" broadcast at John Dos Passos Elementary in Baltimore after an embarrassing incident in the previous year; at loose ends the pair, together with their classmate Brielle, decide to become investigative reporters with their own online broadcast: "The Underground News"--and soon they stumble upon a major story about an educational software company that is illegally tracking and selling student data.
Kirkus Reviews (07/01/21)
School Library Journal (08/01/21)
Full Text Reviews:
School Library Journal - 08/01/2021 Gr 4–6—Ashley (Ash), Maya, and Brielle consider themselves the school news channel dream team. They have been working with the school station since second grade, and sixth grade should be their time to shine as lead anchor, camera person, and editor. That was before Ash and Maya created a viral video of the gym teacher lip-synching in just her sports bra and shorts when she didn't know she was being recorded. Now they have to spend their final year of elementary school as support crew with little to no responsibility and watch Ash's rival, Harry, and his friends fumble through the productions. Not happy with their punishment, the girls enlist the help of Brielle to start their own YouTube news channel, The Underground News, and dub themselves the Renegade Reporters. Soon they find themselves investigating not only dog poo and stolen bicycles, but also whether the number one ad-free educational software platform, Van Ness Media, is tracking and selling student data without their knowledge. Can the Renegade Reporters get the real scoop before their show gets shut down for good? Weissman takes on a lot in this novel, and unfortunately, is only partially successful. We live in a digital world and it's important that kids are aware of privacy, permission, citing sources, cybersecurity, digital footprints, and marketing tactics; but by taking on so much, readers barely scratch the surface of these issues. The cover shows three girls of various ethnicities, but there are no physical descriptions in the text. Ash has two dads and her family is Jewish, but those are the only details that set her character apart from Maya and Brielle. This could be used in a school setting to discuss digital footprints and information freedom/literacy. VERDICT Additional purchase if a teacher or librarian will use it in a discussion of relevant topics.—Heather Webb, Worthington Libs., OH - Copyright 2021 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.
Booklist - 09/01/2021 After an embarrassing video of a teacher goes viral, aspiring news reporter Ash and her best friend and camerawomany, Maya, are kicked off the school news team. The girls, along with their friend and film editor Brielle, decide to start their own online news show reporting on neighborhood stories. What starts as a fun after-school project turns into something more when the girls uncover that the media company that sponsors the school news and other educational media products has been collecting and selling students’ information. Weissman uses a diverse cast to tackle the issue of data privacy in a way that will be accessible and understandable for a tween audience. Although some of the plot turns out to be a bit too coincidental, middle-grade readers may feel empowered to become activists themselves. The timely topic and author’s note on privacy offer opportunities for further discussion, making this a solid choice for libraries and social-justice book clubs. - Copyright 2021 Booklist.