I just finished Makena: See Me, Hear Me, Know Me! Since there's not much on the Internet about the World By Us dolls due to their in-store release literally being yesterday, I figured I'd provide summaries of the books along with my reviews.
If you don't want to be spoiled, don't click this post!
Before we start the summary, here are some fun facts I learned in the story!
-Makena’s Uncle Alex used to own a restaurant, but now he owns a food truck because the pandemic shuttered the restaurant
-Makena’s grandparents moved to NC prior to the pandemic
-Makena’s nickname is “Kay”
-Makena’s meet skirt and butterfly clips are worn on the first day of school
-Makena and Najee have been friends since kindergarten
-Makena’s full name is Makena Lilias Cook Williams
-Makena was born two weeks early… just like McKenna Brooks!
Alright, summary time!
The book opens with Makena and her family going shopping for clothes for school. Makena picks out lots of clothes- more than her sister Amari- because of her excitement about going back to school in person. During remote classes, Makena started a “post your fashion” trend online in her school, and people started to look forward to what she posted. Makena posted clothes all summer, and she figured she’d do it again for the new school year. While Makena picks out clothes, Auntie Bling recalls that Makena’s mom made a dashiki- which was popularized during the Civil Rights Movement among African Americans- to pay homage to Nikki Giovanni, a Black poet, during a seventh-grade talent show. When Makena is done picking out clothes, 2 white girls stare at Makena and then lie that they were in line in the Williams family’s spot, which another person quickly refutes.
While Uncle Alex is cooking, Makena’s grandparents arrive from North Carolina, and the family shares a meal together. After dinner, Makena says that she wants to be seen as a person who’s happy to be back at school and likes art and reflects that in her clothes, but Amari wonders how clothes can reflect all of that. Auntie Bling says that clothes can make a statement- like her mom’s dashiki.
Makena picks out and posts her outfit of the day, and then bumps into her friend Najee. They talk for a bit, and then on her way to homeroom, Makena meets someone new, Adeline, who knows Makena from her posts. At school, Makena’s teacher asks how Makena says her name, which teachers never do- they usually only mispronounce it. After school, someone named Evette sends a photo of platform shoes, and Makena “likes them”. When she gets home, Makena starts to sketch everything she’s seen that day.
Makena goes to the Riverfront Community Center for the first time to help pack boxes for a food pantry with Uncle Alex. Once she’s done, she sees a fashion art exhibit she likes. A girl with platform shoes is mesmerized by them too. The girls realize that they’ve interacted online before- the platform shoe girl is Evette, who introduces Makena to Maritza too. The girls talk about their different styles for a bit and exchange numbers.
During attendance in math class, a substitute teacher mispronounces Makena’s name as “Macky-na”. When Makena raises her hand, the same teacher assumes she’s Adeline, since they’re the only 2 dark-skinned girls in class. She tells Najee about it, and he says that names are a powerful thing. At home, confused that the teacher confused Adeline and her together, Makena posts two different black shoes together with the caption “Just because we’re both black doesn’t mean we’re the same.” Later, Makena, Evette, and Maritza go shopping together, and Makena styles Maritza’s outfit. They then take a selfie together, feeling happy.
On the day of the community center food truck festival, Makena hangs out with Najee. They notice a red-headed girl who is separated from her parents. The girl is named Lexi, and Makena and Najee commit to helping find her mom. Lexi starts crying for her mom, and at that moment, a gray-haired white woman accuses Najee of hurting the girl and doesn’t care at all when Makena explains. Lexi’s mom does come, and thanks Makena and Najee for helping. Makena asks “what was that?” and Najee explains “it’s living while being Black.”
Makena tells her family about the incident and says she feels confused that she felt shut out and that Najee wasn’t hurting anyone. She then tells Evette and Maritza, and Evette then explains that it could happen to her brother too because he has darker skin than Evette. Evette then says that her Grandma Peeters made racist assumptions about her Gran E because Gran E was Black. Evette then says Makena’s good at making a statement with fashion- but Makena was wearing a Black Girls Rule shirt when the lady came over, so Makena doesn't feel that way. Maritza says, “Maybe someone saw those words and felt stronger because of you.”
Makena wears a “justice” shirt she got at an anti-racism march the next day, and she asks Najee how he stayed calm during the incident. Najee says that his father, who died in Iraq, said to always “don’t yell back”. Turns out, Makena’s post of her 'Justice' shirt got 200 likes, and Auntie Bling texts Makena about Carlotta Walls, one of the Little Rock Nine who were the first Black kids to go to an all-white high school. Makena wonders if Carlotta’s dress with shapes and letters of the alphabet was to make a statement. Makena then learns about Harlem Fashion Row, which, in real life, AG partnered with for the WBU clothing. Evette tells Makena about her project to clean up the Anacostia River, and Maritza explains that the three don’t have to grow up to make a difference. The three friends decide to start a website called World By Us showing their activism, and other kids’ activism, off.
One day, Makena forgets her house key, and Amari lost the spare. Makena tries to reach the window to get into the house, but a new neighbor calls the cops on Makena and Amari, and officers come to Makena’s front yard. The officers explain that they got a call of two Black women breaking into the house. Makena’s next-door neighbors Stella and Jerome explain that that’s their house and Makena says that they were locked out. The officers leave, but Makena still feels scared. She cries when her mom says “couldn’t (the new neighbor) see that they were children?”
Stressed about all the racist things that were happening to her, Makena draws a picture and writes a poem about her feelings. It ends in “see me, hear me, know me”, and Makena makes a shirt that says just that. She records a video about what happened and explains everything. Makena posts the video with her parent's permission.
After Makena’s video, Adeline, Najee, Evette, and Maritza make their own videos too, and Makena’s video gets so many likes and comments that she can’t keep up with everything. The neighbor, Luke Brown, who called the cops comes to Makena’s house and tells her and Amari that it was a misunderstanding, but Makena shows Luke the video and he says he’ll work to be a better neighbor. Makena then says the words don’t make the hurt go away, but she’s glad she got to show him the video. Auntie Bling gifts Makena a shirt that says See Me, Hear Me, Know Me- her meet shirt, with a note. Makena then decides to make a show of fashion and art and spoken word, Powerful Statements Powerful Style, at the community center. At the show, the girls talk about their beliefs and about making a difference, and Makena realizes that she’s created a movement for justice and with her friends, she’d keep it going.
My Review: This was a really enjoyable book. I have no words, but I'll try my best to give my feelings about this book some words for all of you guys.
I liked how the book had many moments of Makena enjoying life and a few parts where Makena faced microaggressions and discrimination and did something about them. One of the concerns I've seen collectors have about the World By Us line is that the stories might just be about a heavy topic (in Makena's case, racism), but I had faith in American Girl that they'd do a good job balancing everything as they do in the Historical Characters' books, and they did!
I really liked the character of Makena. She was a character who was determined, creative, and honest, and I liked those traits. I also liked the fact that she was into posting her creations and what's on her mind on social media.
I was expecting more of Evette and Maritza in this book, but that's probably just a me thing. Evette and Maritza are helpful, supportive friends so far and I loved the moments where the girls all got to hang out. My favorite part in the book was when the girls decided to create 'World By Us' as an outlet for their activism, and I also liked the show they put on at the end of the book.
The plot was very interesting. Denise Lewis Patrick, who also wrote Cecile and Melody's books, did a good job building Makena's world and surroundings and also did a great job with the plot. The book did feel a little short, but I see that as a downside of the short turnaround time of World By Us and not Denise's fault at all.
Overall, this book gets a 9/10 from me. The only reason points were deducted was because of how short it was. The actual book was only 80 pages- I wanted more!
P.S: Just in case anyone was wondering, the book was written in the first person, like the majority of American Girl contemporary books.