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Book Review: Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Pénélope Bagieu

Publisher’s description

brazenThroughout history and across the globe, one characteristic connects the daring women of Brazen: their indomitable spirit.

With her characteristic wit and dazzling drawings, celebrated graphic novelist Pénélope Bagieu profiles the lives of these feisty female role models, some world famous, some little known. From Nellie Bly to Mae Jemison or Josephine Baker to Naziq al-Abid, the stories in this comic biography are sure to inspire the next generation of rebel ladies.





Amanda’s thoughts

This is exactly the kind of book I love to give as a gift. I’m always on the lookout for excellent books featuring strong women to either send to children of friends or use as graduation gifts etc. Get this on your radar if you do the same.


This 300+ page volume is filled with charming, lovely, vibrant art that brings to life the biographies of 29 women throughout history. Each biography runs 3-7 pages and Bagieu infuses her characters and conversations with so much humor and life. If you are a Kate Beaton fan, you’ll be into these comics. The women profiled in this collection go beyond the usual people we find in books like this. In fact, I should probably be embarrassed to say, I hadn’t ever heard of a fair number of these women. Bagieu writes about Clementine Delait, who in the early 1900s, became rich and famous as a bar owner/tender and cafe owner, and also because of her beard (in the illustrations, Delait repeatedly irritatedly asks people, “What is wrong with you?” when they ask to touch it or suggest she join a circus). Readers learn about Margaret Hamilton, who was Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz; Las Mariposas, revolutionary sisters in the Dominican Republic; mid-to-late 1800s warrior and shaman Lozen; entertainer and swimsuit innovator Annette Kellerman; painter and Moomin creator Tove Jansson; Liberian social worker Laymah Gbowee; Christine Jorgensen, one of the first Americans to undergo gender confirmation surgery; Temple Grandin, autism spokesperson and animal behavior specialist; Afghanistan-born rapper Sonita Alizadeh; singer Betty Davis; rock group The Shaggs; crime miniaturist Frances Glessner Lee, and many others.


This inclusive look at noteworthy women is a must for all collections. Not only is it gorgeous to look at, but the choice to write about so many women who are less well known helps this stand out from the other (great) books similar to this. Long live unconventional women!


Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781626728691
Publisher: First Second
Publication date: 03/06/2018

Book Review: Monsters Beware! by Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado, a guest review by Callum (age 11)

Publisher’s description

monsters bewareClaudette is back AGAIN, and she’s ready to kick major monster butt!

She’s fought giants, clobbered dragons, and now Claudette faces her biggest challenge yet… herself! Well, that and a gang of vile monsters. It all begins when Claudette’s town hosts the annual Warrior Games. After some sneaky maneuvering, Claudette manages to gets herself, Marie, and Gaston chosen as her town’s representatives. But none of Claudette’s past battles has prepared her for this. And to make matters worse, they must stop the vicious Sea Queen and her evil children from using the Warrior Games to free the dark Wizard Grombach and conquer the world!

In Monsters Beware!, the third and final book of the Claudette graphic novel series, Claudette is put the ultimate test. With her honor on the line will she learn that there’s more to a fight than just winning?


Callum’s thoughts

This graphic novel is about a kid named Claudette and her friends. There’s something going on in town called the Warrior Games and she wants to participate because her mom did. The Games are like a coliseum thing where you fight monsters and stuff, but this time it was just chores, like churning butter and plowing. There’s another kingdom that participated in this, the Sea Kingdom, which turned into monsters and started eating the other contestants. The same monster ate Claudette’s mother. The final games are between Claudette’s team and the Sea Kingdom. The town unveiled a statue that was like an evil wizard frozen in amber and they (the Sea Kingdom) want Claudette’s sword to free him so the wizard can rule the land. At the end, there’s a giant battle where all four monsters combine and turn into a GIANT monster. It starts to destroy the town, so Claudette gets her dad’s sword and is going to attack the monster. Claudette’s brother knows an ice spell that he was using to make snacks with and then the giant monster gets frozen by her brother. Then Claudette smashes it to pieces. Everyone who was eaten comes back out and she sees her mom.


I really liked the art and the story—it’s really good. I liked how it was written and the suspense in it. I kind of liked the Hunger Games vibe to it. It will appeal to lots of kids, especially kids that like adventures.


Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781626721807
Publisher: First Second
Publication date: 03/13/2018
Series: Chronicles of Claudette Series

Book Review: After the Shot Drops by Randy Ribay

Publisher’s description

after the shotA powerful novel about friendship, basketball, and one teen’s mission to create a better life for his family in the tradition of Jason Reynolds, Matt de la Pena, and Walter Dean Myers.     
Bunny and Nasir have been best friends forever, but when Bunny accepts an athletic scholarship across town, Nasir feels betrayed. While Bunny tries to fit in with his new, privileged peers, Nasir spends more time with his cousin, Wallace, who is being evicted. Nasir can’t help but wonder why the neighborhood is falling over itself to help Bunny when Wallace is in trouble.

When Wallace makes a bet against Bunny, Nasir is faced with an impossible decision—maybe a dangerous one.
Told from alternating perspectives, After the Shot Drops is a heart-pounding story about the responsibilities of great talent and the importance of compassion.


Amanda’s thoughts

This fast-paced story of choices, compassion, and consequences is the kind of book you need to read in one sitting. Both the stakes and the tension are high, the characters are dynamic and complicated, and, because of the dramatic principle of Chekhov’s gun, you can be pretty sure you know what’s eventually coming, but it’s still shocking and somehow a surprise.


For Bunny Thompson (nicknamed Bunny “because I got the hops”), a talented basketball player who likely has a huge career ahead of him, transferring to a private school in the suburbs seemed like a good choice. He will get to play on a great team, get a better education, and hopefully get noticed even more, which will all lead to him hopefully being recruited heavily and eventually able to help out his family (which consists of his older sister, who is in college, his twin little sisters, his nurse mother, who works the graveyard shift at the hospital, and his dad, who owns a bookstore). But Bunny grows conflicted about his choice as his time at St. Sebastian’s goes on. He’s one of a handful of black kids, feels like he has nothing in common with his classmates, and often feels like some sort of mascot. To his best friend Nasir and many others in their neighborhood, Bunny’s move feels like a betrayal, a rejection, like he’s leaving everyone behind and thinks he’s better than they are. Nasir and Bunny go months without talking, though it’s clear that both boys miss each other and would like to be able to bridge the gulf between them. But for Nasir, that’s an especially complicated idea, thanks to his cousin Wallace.


Wallace is no fan of Bunny. His only real friend is Nasir, who would love to be able to help Wallace and his grandma, who are about to be evicted, but doesn’t really have any resources to do that. So he tries to help by encouraging Wallace to get a job to help with bills, by being in Wallace’s corner and advocating for him and defending him, even though Nasir’s parents think Wallace is a bad influence. Wallace tries to get some money by making shady deals and placing bets that he isn’t good for. Bunny and Nasir repeatedly approach each other to try to mend their friendship, but each time, Nasir feels like he’s betraying Wallace, that Bunny has plenty of people in his corner, and plenty of resources and opportunities, but Wallace has nothing and no one. Wallace eventually puts Nasir—and Bunny—in an impossible situation, one that will test everyone’s loyalty, and the already high stakes of this story really ramp up. Readers will race through the final chapters to see what happens to all three of these complicated and conflicted characters.


Told through an incredibly effective alternation narration, readers get to see deep inside the minds of both Bunny and Nasir. who show that the situation is much more complicated than just being about two best friends driven apart by Bunny’s choice to change schools. Gripping, suspenseful, and complex, this story of basketball, friendship, courage, desperation, and choices will appeal to a wide audience. A must-have for all collections. 


Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781328702272
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 03/06/2018

Book Review: The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani

Publisher’s description

night diaryIn the vein of Inside Out and Back Again and The War That Saved My Life comes a poignant, personal, and hopeful tale of India’s partition, and of one girl’s journey to find a new home in a divided country

It’s 1947, and India, newly independent of British rule, has been separated into two countries: Pakistan and India. The divide has created much tension between Hindus and Muslims, and hundreds of thousands are killed crossing borders.

Half-Muslim, half-Hindu twelve-year-old Nisha doesn’t know where she belongs, or what her country is anymore. When Papa decides it’s too dangerous to stay in what is now Pakistan, Nisha and her family become refugees and embark first by train but later on foot to reach her new home. The journey is long, difficult, and dangerous, and after losing her mother as a baby, Nisha can’t imagine losing her homeland, too. But even if her country has been ripped apart, Nisha still believes in the possibility of putting herself back together.

Told through Nisha’s letters to her mother, The Night Diary is a heartfelt story of one girl’s search for home, for her own identity…and for a hopeful future.


Amanda’s thoughts

This was another of those rare books that I read in one sitting, ignoring all of the other things I was supposed to do, allowing myself to be sucked into this book and its world.

Nisha, an introvert who rarely speaks to people outside of her family, begins keeping a diary in July 1947, after Kazi, the family chef, gives her a blank book for her 12th birthday. She narrates her life and the events unfolding around her in letters to her Muslim mother, who died while giving birth to Nisha and Amil, her twin brother. Nisha’s father is Hindu (as are Nisha and Amil), and Kazi is Muslim. Nisha is used to being friends with Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs, but that all changes when Partition happens. Nisha struggles to understand how India will soon be free from British rule, but will be divided up into two countries, one for Muslims and one for Hindus and Sikhs. Where they live will now be part of Pakistan, where Muslims will live. Nisha and her family must leave behind Kazi and make the perilous journey to their new home on foot. The trip is long, and they have very little food or water. As they grow more exhausted and dehydrated, Nisha becomes sure that she, Amil, her father, and their grandmother will all die. Their destination, while ultimately the new India, is first making it to Rashid Uncle’s house, halfway to the border. Rashid is their mother’s brother, someone Nisha has never met before. Their time there is precious, with Nisha recognizing so much of herself and her mother in Rashid. Leaving his house, being displaced yet again, is hard for Nisha. The remainder of their trip is horrific and frightening, but they arrive safely in their new home, where an unexpected surprise helps Nisha feel like this is more like home.


This intimate look at Partition, families, and identity is beautifully written and especially engaging due to the diary/letters format. A solid read for those looking for historical fiction, books about India’s history and culture, or refugees. 

An author’s note explains that this novel is loosely based on her father’s family’s experience. A glossary is appended.



Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9780735228511
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 03/06/2018

Book Review: P.S. I Miss You by Jen Petro-Roy

Publisher’s description

ps i missA heartbreaking—yet ultimately uplifting—epistolary novel about family, religion, and having the courage to be yourself.


Evie is heartbroken when her strict Catholic parents send her pregnant sister, Cilla, away to stay with a distant great-aunt. All Evie wants is for her older sister to come back. Forbidden from speaking to Cilla, Evie secretly sends her letters.

Evie writes about her family, torn apart and hurting. She writes about her life, empty without Cilla. And she writes about the new girl in school, June, who becomes her friend, and then maybe more than a friend.

Evie could really use some advice from Cilla. But Cilla isn’t writing back, and it’s time for Evie to take matters into her own hands.

P.S. I Miss You by Jen Petro-Roy is a heartfelt middle grade novel dealing with faith, identity, and finding your way in difficult times.


Amanda’s thoughts

Oh, friends. We need SO MANY MORE middle grade books about LGBTQIA+ kids. I can’t wait for the day that kids of all identities can see themselves joyfully and lovingly represented and embraced.

Evie’s path to discovering who she really is is a very complicated and painful one. The entire book is told through letters to her sister Cilla, who at first has no internet/phone access and then later just isn’t responding. At first I couldn’t get past how extremely dated it feels to only be able to communicate through snail mail, but I did get past that once I got caught up in the story. Cilla got pregnant at sixteen and has been sent away from their home in Massachusetts to their great-aunt’s home in Virginia, to have the baby in secret, then to head to an all-girls’ Catholic boarding school after the baby is born and adopted. Evie desperately misses her sister and sends her endless letters, despite only rarely (and tersely) hearing back from Cilla. Evie’s extremely judgmental and withholding parents have retreated into work and baking/hiding away crying since Cilla left, leaving Evie so alone as she navigates some new feelings toward new classmate June. But it’s not like her parents would be comforting or loving to Evie during this time, anyway. The version of Catholicism that they practice is a strict and punishing one, one that makes them shun their pregnant daughter and, Evie is sure, would make them just as quickly disown their lesbian daughter. So she writes to Cilla, despite the silence back, trying to work out her feelings for June and process her sister’s absence. Evie is not at all prepared for what she finds when she goes looking on her own to find her sister. Uncovering a betrayal so profound that it’s hard to imagine it actually happening, Evie is forced to face the lengths some people will go to to maintain appearances and hide secrets. It’s a revelation that will change her life and her perception of her family, religion, and her thoughts on her own identity.


There is so much shame, stigma, and embarrassment here. Their parents constantly talk about how horrible Cilla’s “mistake” and “sin” is. They are mortified, deeply ashamed, and do everything to hide what has happened, including the very outdated-feeling move of sending her away to have the baby in secret. They have completely turned their back on Cilla, not communicating with her, showing any love, or even uttering her name. They remove her pictures from their walls, spin lies to the community about where she is, and even tell an old friend that Evie is their only child. The constant onslaught of shame and judgment toward teen pregnancy honestly got really hard to stomach.


Evie is very, very young-sounding and naive. The story takes place during 7th grade, but quite often, she feels much younger. She initially thinks in pretty simplistic ways (“bad girls get pregnant”). When she meets June, she notes that she’s never met anyone with dyed hair. When she learns June is an atheist, she again notes that she’s never met one. She observes that her sister broke commandments and sinned, but that she’s learned her lesson and won’t sin again. It’s clear how much of her thinking early on in the book has been influenced by her (awful) parents. Her thoughts on everything change and progress as the story unfolds, but for quite a bit of the story she is sheltered, naive, and parroting her parents’ beliefs. This development, this change to having her own opinions on right and wrong, on religion’s role in her life, on things like teen pregnancy and homosexuality, is believable if not always easy to read.


Evie’s relationship with June also develops in a believable, if not always happy, way. Though she recognizes and struggles with the crush she has on June early on, she is so worried that her parents will disown her, that she’s a sinner, that she’s doing something wrong. But she pushes past that and lets herself feel what she feels. Their relationship follows a very typical trajectory for 7th graders—they’re hesitant, nervous, excited, and happy. They hold sweaty hands, kiss (once, then Evie decides she isn’t ready to be doing that), and spend tons of time together. But for much of the book, it’s all in secret. Thankfully, when Evie does tell her best friends what is going on, they react positively. But even when Evie has told June how she feels and they are girlfriends, Evie notes that she still feels a little ashamed of herself for liking a girl.


My hope is that readers can see past the onslaught of shame and stigma, even felt and perpetuated by Evie herself, to see the joy of discovering someone you have a crush on and see how Evie eventually learns to not hide or be ashamed of who she is. A well-written, if deeply uncomfortable and often disheartening, look at identity, family, and secrets. 


Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781250123480
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication date: 03/06/2018

Book Review: Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough

Publisher’s description

blood water paintHer mother died when she was twelve, and suddenly Artemisia Gentileschi had a stark choice: a life as a nun in a convent or a life grinding pigment for her father’s paint.

She chose paint.

By the time she was seventeen, Artemisia did more than grind pigment. She was one of Rome’s most talented painters, even if no one knew her name. But Rome in 1610 was a city where men took what they wanted from women, and in the aftermath of rape Artemisia faced another terrible choice: a life of silence or a life of truth, no matter the cost.

He will not consume
my every thought.
I am a painter.
I will paint.

Joy McCullough’s bold novel in verse is a portrait of an artist as a young woman, filled with the soaring highs of creative inspiration and the devastating setbacks of a system built to break her. McCullough weaves Artemisia’s heartbreaking story with the stories of the ancient heroines, Susanna and Judith, who become not only the subjects of two of Artemisia’s most famous paintings but sources of strength as she battles to paint a woman’s timeless truth in the face of unspeakable and all-too-familiar violence.

I will show you
what a woman can do.


Amanda’s thoughts

17-year-old Artemisia understands the way the world works: women are a beauty for consumption by men. There are many expectations for women and few freedoms. She understands that girls are prey, that they are seen as things and possessions. Artemisia, ostensibly an apprentice to her painter father, though clearly far more skilled than he, begins to paint biblical women she knows intimately from her mother’s stories, knowing a man could never capture the truth of the story the way a woman could. Her mother’s stories made clear the heavy burden of the inescapable male gaze, but they also made clear Artemisia’s (and all women’s) right to be outraged, to act, to push back, to speak up. These woman from her mother’s stories, Judith and Susanna, come to be her strength and solace when Artemisia is raped by Agostina Tassi, her painting tutor. Artemisia tells her father of the rape and they take Tino to trial. But, of course, it is not Tino on trial, but Artemisia’s virtue. 

Both the stories from Artemisia’s mother and Artemisia’s own story ask the readers to bear witness, to see the truth, to hear the voices, to understand the strength in the stories. The stories are the weapons, the armor, the refuge, and the map. This intensely passionate and powerful exploration of women’s lives, stories, truths, and power is a masterpiece. 


Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9780735232112
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 03/06/2018

Book Review: The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

Publisher’s description

poet XFans of Jacqueline Woodson, Meg Medina, and Jason Reynolds will fall hard for this astonishing #ownvoices novel-in-verse by an award-winning slam poet, about an Afro-Latina heroine who tells her story with blazing words and powerful truth.

Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about.

With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself. So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out. But she still can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.


Amanda’s thoughts

This book was fantastic. It took me a little bit to warm up to Xiomara, not because of any flaws in the writing or characterization, but because Xiomara is a tough nut to crack—she keeps most everyone at a distance, is quick to fight, and is slow to reveal what she’s all about. But once this novel in verse really gets going—watch out! You won’t be moving anywhere until you’ve finished the whole thing.


15-year-old Dominican American Xiomara is used to being judged, harassed, and viewed only as a body with curves, not just from the male gaze, but even from her own mother. She’s close to exactly two people in life, her twin brother, whom she lovingly just calls Twin, and their best friend, Caridad. They are the only ones who really know anything about her, and even they don’t get to know it all. Xiomara’s mother goes to Mass daily and is extremely disappointed in Xiomara’s disinterest in church, confirmation classes, and religion. She’s very strict,but Xiomara has found ways around her rules to try to live the life she wants. She joins a poetry club at school while pretending to be at confirmation classes. She also begins seeing Trinidadian Aman, a kind, compassionate, music-loving classmate who is always ready to hear one of her poems. Her mother makes it clear that her sexuality is something to be repressed, to be ashamed of, to be denied, but Xiomara is having all of these first feelings for Aman, and not even the scolding voice of her mother in her head can override her beginning to make her own decisions and define her body and her sexuality on her own terms. But she has to keep all of this secret from her mother—just like Twin has to keep his relationship with a boy a secret. Everything begins to unravel when Xiomara’s mother sees her kissing Aman, and then further escalates when she finds Xiomara’s poetry notebook. Learning how to trust and how listen to her own voice—to find power not just in words but in the power of her words—is a rough road for Xiomara, but it’s also one filled with wonder, joy, and revelations. Powered by Xiomara’s strong but vulnerable voice, this intense, poignant, and extraordinary novel is a must for all collections.



Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9780062662804
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 03/06/2018

Book Review: Snowsisters by Tom Wilinsky and Jen Sternick

When I’m reviewing books for professional publications, I stay quiet about them on social media. I’m always really excited once a review comes out to be able to talk about the book, finally! Here’s one of my most recent reviews, which originally appeared in the February 2018  School Library Journal.


snowsistersSnowsisters by Tom Wilinsky, Jen Sternick (ISBN-13: 9781945053528 Publisher: Interlude Pr Publication date: 02/15/2018)

Gr 9 Up—A week at camp provides time for some serious self reflection for two very different girls. Farm girl Tess and Manhattanite Soph meet as roommates in rural New Hampshire at a young women’s writing conference. Soph, a lesbian who rarely hesitates to speak her mind, writes poetry while Tess, who is in a complicated relationship with a boy, writes fan fiction. Tess plans to join the military after high school and hopes this retreat will show her a bit about what life is like beyond her tiny town. What she finds are experiences that challenge her as a writer and as a person, pushing her to find her voice in more ways than one. Narrated by the protagonists in alternating chapters, the plot has potential, with an atmospheric setting filled with a diverse group of girls, but the execution is lacking. The large cast of characters is unmemorable, save trans-exclusionary feminist Chris who spends the entire novel spewing hate at Orly, who is transgender. Chris is constantly misgendering Orly, attempting to “investigate” her, and repeating how unsafe she feels. Tess and Soph do call her out and try to broker peace. Readers may be inclined to skip Tess’s lackluster fan fiction and Soph’s rather abysmal poetry. While the eventual ways Tess and Soph grow from their time together is meaningful (Tess finds her role as a leader and Soph begins to understand that not everyone can be loudly and openly out), getting there is a journey filled with largely forgettable and repetitive moments. VERDICT An additional purchase.—Amanda MacGregor, Parkview Elementary School, Rosemount, MN

Book Review: One True Way by Shannon Hitchcock

Publisher’s description

one trueWelcome to Daniel Boone Middle School in the 1970s, where teachers and coaches must hide who they are, and girls who like girls are forced to question their own choices. Presented in the voice of a premier storyteller, One True Way sheds exquisite light on what it means to be different, while at the same time being wholly true to oneself. Through the lives and influences of two girls, readers come to see that love is love is love. Set against the backdrop of history and politics that surrounded gay rights in the 1970s South, this novel is a thoughtful, eye-opening look at tolerance, acceptance, and change, and will widen the hearts of all readers.



Amanda’s thoughts

It’s 1977 in North Carolina and new girl 12-year-old Allie is immediately taken under the wing of gregarious Sam, a star basketball player who moves easily between all the social groups. She helps Allie get a spot on the school newspaper, with her first assignment being a profile about Sam. As the girls get to know one another, it quickly becomes obvious that they like each other. Sam’s parents are very close-minded, and Sam knows they would never approve of her liking girls—she says they’d immediately get put on the prayer list at her church, One True Way. Her mother calls her basketball coach, who is a lesbian and dating a fellow teacher, a pervert and an abomination. Allie thinks maybe she can be open with her parents; after all, her uncle is gay and everyone seems okay with that. But telling her mom doesn’t go how she hopes it will—her mother tells her she’s too young to know if she likes girls, that maybe it’s just a phase. It all becomes very complicated as the girls try to stay away from each other and Allie tries to see if it really is a choice, if she can maybe make herself like boys instead. Thankfully, through this painful and confusing time the girls have some very open, smart, loving people looking out for them, including the reverend from Allie’s Methodist church, Coach Murphy and Miss Holt, and, eventually, Allie’s own parents.


One of the things I like best about this book is the conversations Allie has with the adults in her life, especially her mother. Her mother’s initial disappointment and fear change as Allie repeatedly discusses with her her feelings for Sam. Her dad’s reaction is wonderful and loving, the therapist they all go see (for many reasons, including the death of Allie’s brother and her parents’ impending divorce) is supportive and kind, and Sam’s sister reaches out to Allie to see how to best accept and support Sam. Though worried about being gay in a small town in this era, the girls get plenty of love and support, never forgetting for too long that the important thing is to be true to yourself. We desperately need more middle grade novels with LGBTQIA+ main characters, and Hitchcock’s book is a very welcome addition to the small but growing selection. An affirming look at discovering who you really are and finding love and support when you learn to speak your truth. 


Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781338181722
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date: 02/27/2018

Book Review: The Serpent’s Secret (Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond #1) by Sayantani DasGupta

Publisher’s description



(Only she doesn’t know it yet.)

On the morning of her twelfth birthday, Kiranmala is just a regular sixth grader living in Parsippany, New Jersey . . . until her parents mysteriously vanish and a drooling rakkhosh demon slams through her kitchen, determined to eat her alive. Turns out there might be some truth to her parents’ fantastical stories-like how Kiranmala is a real Indian princess and how she comes from a secret place not of this world.

To complicate matters, two crush-worthy princes ring her doorbell, insisting they’ve come to rescue her. Suddenly, Kiran is swept into another dimension full of magic, winged horses, moving maps, and annoying, talking birds. There she must solve riddles and battle demons all while avoiding the Serpent King of the underworld and the Rakkhoshi Queen in order to find her parents and basically save New Jersey, her entire world, and everything beyond it . . .


Amanda’s thoughts

I could stare at this cover all day. Isn’t it beyond gorgeous? It makes me happy to think about this book being face-out in bookstores and on displays in stores and libraries. Who wouldn’t gravitate toward it? And, in this case, you can totally judge a book by its cover: awesome cover, awesome story.


Kiran certainly wasn’t expecting to come home from school on her 12th birthday and find that her parents had been swallowed by a rakkhosh (demon) and sent to another dimension. Though her parents had always told her stories about her being an Indian princess, the daughter of an underworld serpent king that they rescued, Kiran never believed them. Why would she? Surely those outrageous tales were just stories. But, much to Kiran’s shock, the events on her birthday prove that those wild stories were true—and they were just the beginning.


She hardly has time to pack a small bag and grab the note her parents left that stops mid-sentence before she is off with princes Neel and Lal to save her parents (despite their strict instructions to not try to find them). On their adventure, Kiran encounters flying horses, the spirit of  a tree in a bottle, demons, demon groupies, a bad-joke-telling bird, mountains of illusion, and so many more unexpected and mind-boggling things (like being accused of stealing someone’s mustache). Though definitely a great adventure full of close calls and unexpected twists, DasGupta’s story is also very, very funny. This book is packed full of silliness (I kept thinking of the Monty Python quote, “On second thought, let’s not go to Camelot. Tis a silly place.”)—so many of the characters and situations are just outright ridiculous, while also being challenging and possibly threatening. While Kiran works hard to find and rescue her parents, she learns that things (and people) are not always as they seem and that everything is connected to everything. Fast-paced and hilarious, with an excellent strong girl main character, this book is a must for collections. Because of Kiran’s age and the content/length/complexity of the story, this will widely appeal to readers from upper elementary through teens. 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781338185706
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date: 02/27/2018