Cover Image: Figure It Out, Henri Weldon

Figure It Out, Henri Weldon

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I picked this up because of the subject matter. I'd never seen a book about dyscalculia before and I know I personally really could have used this book as a child. I hope this book is widely read in schools and helps educate teachers about dyscalculia and acalculia, as people don't seem to know much about math learning disabilities. And that causes a lot of undiagnosed children a lot of pain. Highly recommend.
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I received an uncorrected E-proof ARC of from NetGalley and HarperCollins Publishing in exchange for an honest review of “Figure It Out, Henri Weldon,” by Tanita S. Davis.

When I read the blurb for Davis’ newest book, I was amazed. Prior to reading that blurb, I had never heard of dyscalculia before. As I was reading, I had to put the book down at various points to ‘breathe’. At times, this ‘breathing space’ encompassed several days. I did this not because the book was badly written in any way, but because I started having flashbacks of instances that I lived through during my childhood, teenage years, and even adulthood.

Things are very different from when I was growing up. Back then, educators were not aware—at least not any educators that taught me—of dyscalculia. As I read Davis’ book, I saw myself in Henrietta Weldon. And I had to learn how to ‘figure it out’, but unlike the MC Henri, I was forced to figure it out on my own.

Anything with numbers (and directions) really screwed me up. The worst part was reading clocks which, during the 1980s, were completely old-fashioned—not digital. I remember the shame I felt about not being able to read a clock. In fact, it wasn’t until I was in high school that I could tell the time. I never told anyone about my problems; it was too shameful.

This book was brilliantly conceived. Although the author’s writing style is different from what I’m used to, the book’s conception more than made up for it all. The one thing that I completely disliked was that although the author discusses dyscalculia in the book blurb, the term is completely absent in the text. This is a real problem because if people don’t read the book blurb—and they often don’t—they won’t understand what Henri is really dealing with and that dyscalculia is an actual problem. It seems as if the author is treating dyscalculia in the same way as my teachers did: by ignoring it. The author missed a huge teaching moment. This is an important loss because by refusing to even name dyscalculia, young people today won’t be able to pinpoint the source of never ending frustration and, like myself, will have to “figure it out” on their own.

Of course, I never let this stop me from achieving a doctorate, and it didn’t stop the author from achieving as well. But naming the condition could have helped a lot of younger people and their teachers; they shouldn’t have to read a book blurb about it.

I liked this book and it would have been a godsend for it to have been published in the 1980s. It’s unfortunate, though, that the author didn’t address the condition by name in the book. If Davis had done this, I would have given this book 5 stars without hesitation.
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I absolutely adored this book. A really great MG story full of heart, with wonderful characters. 

Thank you for the digital ARC. All opinions expressed are completely my own.
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Figure It Out, Henri Weldon is a super slice-of-life book featuring a highly relatable protagonist with dyscalculia. At its heart, this story is about family — finding it, understanding it, appreciating it, and loving it. But it’s also about a love for words and writing, figuring out sibling relationships, and enjoying pets (including a pet snake and a pet rat). I savored every single page of this one and would totally recommend it!
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Ultimately, this book disappointed. Davis set up a fairly typical middle grade story where the main character enters a new school facing a variety of challenges. I thought that Henri's dyscalculia would form a much bigger part of the plot than the heavy focus in the first few chapters presented. Instead, Davis shifted focus in Henri's various problems throughout the narrative which resulted in a lack of build to a climax and proper resolution. It felt unsatisfying, especially since Henri doesn't really ever "figure things out."
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This is a wonderful book about learning, understanding, and appreciating your strengths. 

Henrietta Weldon has dyscalculia, a math learning disability that makes it difficult for her to comprehend number-related concepts and perform mathematical calculations. Though this is something that has come to define her within herself and her family, Henri is determined to make this new school year at a new school the best it can be. 

Fighting with her lack of confidence mixed with the constant questioning from her family, Henri isn’t sure she will ever be “good” at math…

Henri’s story is full of determination, hard work, and the want to succeed. The path Henri takes isn’t smooth or straight, but that is what helps to make this story feel more realistic and relatable. 

Figure it Out Henri Weldon is a story that, I feel, will resonate with middle-grade readers across the board, allowing them to be seen in the struggles of middle school with the workload, extracurriculars, family life, and new friends.  

The one part I didn’t really buy fully into was the relationship between Henri and her sister Kat and the way in which it was perceived by their parents. It seemed that Kat was always allowed to talk down to and negatively at Henri without their parents really stepping in. And it’s not to say that they are not good parents because they seem to be attentive (surface level at the beginning of the story) to what Henri is trying to say, so it seemed odd that they would allow Kat to get away with talking to her sister in the ways in which she did.
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I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley and am voluntarily posting a review. All opinions are my own. 

Figure It Out, Henri Weldon is a sweet coming-of-age middle grade title about the various issues kids that age deal with, especially as Black kids and/or children with learning disabilities. Henri has dyscalculia, which makes math difficult for her, and a large plotline in the book is her frustration with it and figuring out various things related to numbers and how they work. While I don’t personally struggle with that disability, I found her struggles relatable, as I also am not particularly fond of math, and I love how she expressed the little ways things related to numbers and doing sums don’t make sense. Her tangent about how the appearance of  American currency doesn’t make sense to their actual value is particularly insightful, and it definitely made me pause and think, “Yeah, that is weird.” 

I also liked that she enjoyed writing, which further deepened my kinship with her. She expresses many deeply personal insights about the things she’s going through, from her ongoing struggle with math to her issues with her classmates to the tensions she has with her older sister. All of these issues are relatable to varying degrees to many kids, and will speak to them and show they’re not alone. 

This is a cute book, and I’d recommend it to kids and their families who may be going through similar things.
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Figure It Out, Henri Weldon by Tanita S. Davis. HarperCollins Children’s Books, Katherine Tegen Books, 2023.  
Thank you HarperCollins Children’s Books for providing an e-book copy through NetGalley.  
Rating: 1-5 (5 being a starred review) 4
Genre: Realistic Fiction

What I Liked: It is refreshing to see a young Black protagonist go through normal and neurodivergent struggles in realistic fiction. Henri has dyscalculia, a learning disability that makes math challenging to process and understand. So when she (finally) transfers to a public school for the 7th grade, she thinks that math is going to be her only problem. Turns out that making new friends, meeting family expectations, and adverse sisterhood are also issues that she has to face, much to her confusion. Her overachieving mother and laid-back father don’t seem to get her at all, her sister grows more and more antagonistic each day, and a new group of kids who are labeled as “bad” turn out to be the opposite. Henri has to “figure out” all these moving parts in her new social and family life, all while not failing math on top of it. Henri herself is warm and charming, and the other characters bring their own unique voice and energy to the story. Watching her join the soccer team, develop a love for poetry, and learn how to juggle all of her activities is a treat for readers. Henri and her family are African-American, and the kids she meets are a mix of ethnicities. 

What I Didn’t Like: The conflict resolution between Henri and her sister feels partly unresolved. Henri’s sister has been mean, rude, and abrasive toward Henri the entire story, but then she performs one act of kindness and all is forgiven. There needed to be a bigger or more emotional payoff between the two sisters, because right now the story feels unfinished as it is. This can also be said with Henri’s parents (though it’s not as drastic): The book ends with neither fully understanding how Henri feels, so readers are left hanging for emotional resolution. 
Who Would I Recommend This To: Middle school students 

Review Date: February 15, 2023
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This book was so cute. It was such an amazing plot . The character development was amazing and I became so engulfed in story
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Growing up I would've idolized a book like this one - one that normalized dyscalculia and neurodivergence struggles. There aren't enough middle-grade books about sensitive girls like Henri and I wish that this book would've been written while I was in middle school. Any young person who is neurodivergent, particularly those that struggle with math, will love reading about Henri's triumphs. Davis is able to write a story with numerous young adult voices and not have a single one sound forced or imaginary, but instead exactly like how kids talk. I've only ever come across one other book, My Thirteenth Winter, that discusses dyscalculia, so the fact that Davis makes this the focus of her book is something that I am eternally grateful for. Reading about a character whose brain works exactly like mine made me feel vindicated even as an adult. 

Some of my favorite quotes:

"'Man, Henrietta, why you gotta always do everything the hard way?' Because. It was the only way her brain even sometimes worked to get the right answer."

"Dear Ms. Edana: I don't want to talk to math. Or have it talk to me. Thank you."

"Bus schedules were a torture made up by people who were never, ever late..."

"Henri really wished that Mom could understand how hard 'try' was when everyone was watching her - and judging."

"Why didn't they make it so money makes sense? I mean, why can't they, like, understand that there are people like me in the world, and this is hard?!"

"No matter what anybody said, things were fine. Everything was handled."

"This was the most Monday Friday, ever."
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This is a Middle Grade book. I really loved this book, and the main character made me think about my daughter. The main character of this book has ADHD and had trouble keeping up with things. I loved the message in this book, and the ending of this book was just everything. This book was about so much friendships, ADHD, and family which I loved so much. I was kindly provided an e-copy of this book by the publisher (HarperCollins US) or author (Tanita S. Davis) via NetGalley, so I can give an honest review about how I feel about this book. I want to send a big Thank you to them for that.
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This is a great read for any middle grader as they change and adjust. I wasn't exactly sure at the beginning why Henri was taking the math test and where it was going to lead. I liked that we see her struggle to fit in and find her place in this new normal. I think a little more information about her background would have been. But overall a good book about middle school struggles, friendships, and family. 

Thanks NetGalley for this ARC!
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Excellent middle-grade reading and love that it has a learning disability as a core feature but not the main focus of the book. It is really about the family relationships and friendships of a young girl trying to fit into new situations, to the similarities of many middle schoolers. I think multiple students would relate to this book, it's already on my order list for the next purchase in my library!
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This book was so good! I loved the themes of family relationships, shown when Henri and her sister fight but in the end have each others backs, and when some of Henri´s friends stick up for their siblings. I also loved the theme of friendship. An example of that would be when Henri makes her own friends even though her sister doesn´t approve and makes it work when things with them are struggling. In summary, it was an amazing and powerful book that had a lot of feeling and honesty.
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Cute story, but I found parts to be pretty repetitive.  I was expecting a story about a student with special needs entering into a mainstream class for the first time and how she managed and coped.  But Henri just read as a student who struggled some in math and possibly a little immature, but her disabilities did not shine through.
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This is a book that should be on the shelves of every middle-grade classroom!

Henri is a realistic and authentic character, and her struggles to figure out where she fits in will likely resonate with readers. As a former special education teacher, I appreciated the fact that this book features a main character who struggles with a learning disability. Navigating a new school, problems with siblings, and navigating the teen years nails many of the issues this age group deal with on a daily basis. It's also fun that the animals (a pet snake and a pet rat) included in the story are non-traditional ones!
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“Figure it out, Henri Weldon” is a middle grade slice of life of Henrietta, who has had to go to public school, because her parents are trying to save money, and she has to learn to work with her dyscalculia (a bit like dyslexia for numbers), and her parents just keep saying she has to figure it out.
There are mean girls, and mean siblings, but what I like is that Henri figures out that just because someone is mean to someone else, it doesn’t mean they are always mean, or that their siblings are mean. She ends up making friends with a family that her sister doesn’t like, who keeps warning her against them.
Despite not feeling as though she is smart, Henri figures things out, such as how to write poetry, and how to play soccer, despite what others around her think.
What is nice about this novel is that there is no brilliant solution to Henri’s woes at the end of the book, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t grow and change. Because disabilities don’t have to be fixed in order for the character to grow.

Thanks to Edelweiss and Netgalley for making this book available for an honest review.
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If anything, I felt that Figure It Out, Henri Weldon ended too soon.  I hope there are sequels.  I definitely got invested in the characters and want to see where they go from here.  In a nutshell, Henrietta Weldon, a seventh grader with discalculia, a learning disability which makes math difficult, will be mainstreaming at the public school.  With it comes new friends, new classes, new schedules, new interests (soccer and Poetry), and new fights with her sister.   Will it be too much for her to handle?  Or will she figure it out?

Thanks to NetGalley for an eARC
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First I would like to thank the author, the publisher and NetGalley for the copy of the book for me to review.  As a special education teacher, I am often drawn to stories about students or adults with learning disabilities or other special needs.  The synopsis for this book mentioned the main character, Henri, leaving a special education school and mainstreaming into a general education school.  It also mentioned that she had dyscalculia - which is a math learning disability.  I have not seen this particular learning disability represented in books at all, so this interested me.

I was a bit confused then when reading the book, to find a seventh grader who did struggle with math, but I don't think the term dyscalculia was ever used to describe what she was dealing with.  Nor did it ever say (unless I missed it) that she had been at a special education school.  The storyline alluded to her having attended a private school that the family could no longer afford.  This changes the tone of what kind of book it is - not that she is finally mainstreaming with general education students because of her abilities, but instead because of her family's economic status.  Also, if her only learning disability was dyscalculia, it would be odd for her to be at a "special education school" in the first place.

Overall I felt like this book didn't know what it wanted to be.  It was more or less a fish out of water story with Henri trying to learn how to fit in to 7th grade in a new school, while dealing with normal coming of age things such as trying to balance all of her commitments and sibling rivalry.  Once or twice there was a nod to her needing to work harder because she is an "African American girl," but that was not the overall tone or point of the book either, so it was kind of tossed in there.  Also tossed in there was her feeling like her family didn't support her or come together as a family unit, and then toward the end when her Mom attends her soccer game she starts to change her mind about how they act as a family.  There was also major sibling rivalry with her sister which was never fully explained or resolved.  Her sister is upset because Henri becomes friendly with a girl who used to bully her, and the book at one point tries to explore this - should she be friends with the bully?  Was the girl a bully?  What happened?  But this is never resolved either and we still don't know what the storyline with the bully is all about.

Overall, this was a cute middle school read, Henri is a likeable character, but overall it seemed like a pretty typical middle school book about trying to learn where you fit in, at school, and in your family.
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Will be withholding full review in support of the Harper Collins Union strike. For more information please visit
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