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How to Be Brave

How to Be Brave 1

by Daisy May Johnson
Publication Date: 28/09/2021
4/5 Rating 1 Review

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RRP  $19.99

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A fizzingly funny, heartfelt middle-grade novel about a resourceful girl, her impractical mother and a kidnapping mystery.

Some stories are about adventure. Some are about heroes. Some are about ducks. This one is about all three.

Calla's mum has never been normal. She's been known to go out in a lab coat and slippers and often forgets to perform basic tasks because she's been thinking about ducks. When a job offer arrives to study her beloved birds in the Amazon rainforest, Calla knows her mum has to go. Nervously, she agrees to go to boarding school.

She quickly learns that trouble is afoot in this odd convent school. A mean new headmistress is imposing horrible rules and making everyone eat Brussels sprout cake, and the students are itching to revolt. As Calla makes new friends and gets drawn into their rebellious plot, she keeps waiting for her mum to call. She will, won't she?

Exuberantly funny and brimming with heart, How to Be Brave is a riotous celebration of the power of resourceful girls, stories and the right biscuit at the right time.

General fiction (Children's / Teenage)
Publication Date:
Pushkin Children's Books
Country of origin:
United Kingdom
Dimensions (mm):
Daisy May Johnson

Daisy May Johnson is a writer, researcher, chartered librarian and former A14 Writer in Residence with the University of Cambridge. She blogs about children's literature at Did You Ever Stop To Think, tweets as @chaletfan, and even sends the occasional Tiny Letter. When she's not doing any of that, you'll find her curled up with her favourite school stories, or baking the world's best chocolate brownies.

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Based on 1 review

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1 Review

“Everybody is extraordinary. We all burn with potential and to seek for the normal in the world is to limit yourself. Why on earth would you ever want to do that?”

This is a book of bravery, ducks (one particular type of duck) and footnotes, where friendship, family and biscuits are all important. We follow the story of a mother, who is quite forgetful and has been known to wear bright purple slippers with her lab coat, and her daughter, who loves her mother as much as she loves “the last biscuit in the tin.”

I love boarding school stories and the School of the Good Sisters is a fun boarding school to explore. The nuns, of whom Good Sister Christine was my favourite, teach the girls life skills like baking and helicopter maintenance (this is also important). The secret library isn’t the school’s only secret and there’s currently a villain in residence, one who has been planning their “nefarious deeds” for a long time.

Although there’s a lot of fun in this book, there’s also a gentle exploration of grief and the need to belong.

Although I originally thought Elizabeth was going to be my favourite character (anyone who loves ducks that much has to be a good person), Edie well and truly claimed that honour. She’s a little spitfire with a revolutionary spirit, a twelve year old who loves mischief just as much as she loves her friends.

“My reign of terror shall begin after breakfast”

I’m hoping a sequel will resolve a couple of things that felt unfinished to me. I may have missed something but I don’t remember learning the details of what happened to Elizabeth’s parents. I want to know if Elizabeth and Aslan were ever reunited. Also, and possibly most importantly, what happened to the people our villain worked for?

“You don’t ever forget what people are. What they meant to you.”

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Pushkin Children’s Books, an imprint of Pushkin Press, for the opportunity to read this book.

Contains Spoilers No
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