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How To Be Brave

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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.

304 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published July 6, 2021

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Daisy May Johnson

2 books165 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 50 reviews
Profile Image for Peggy.
300 reviews134 followers
March 9, 2021
I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves school stories, biscuits (or cookies, as we call them in the U.S.), and especially to Anatidaephiles.*

It’s funny, poignant, and full of adventure, and the footnotes are brilliant.

I love a book that mentions so many of my own favorites while increasing my TBR list. I’m sadly remiss in my reading of boarding school stories (unless you count Life With Mother Superior and Daddy Longlegs), but this book has inspired me to catch up.

*People who love ducks.

NOTE: Received as an ARC from Netgalley.
Profile Image for Schizanthus Nerd.
1,153 reviews241 followers
April 22, 2021
“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.

Blog - https://schizanthusnerd.com
473 reviews14 followers
June 29, 2021
So many brilliant debut authors appearing in 2021 and Daisy May Johnson is another to add to the list.

Having to be brave is nothing new to mother and daughter, Elizabeth and Calla. Together, they have faced more than their fair share of difficulties and lows in life and have always put on a brave face to see them through. So when Elizabeth is invited to take part in a six-month research project involving ducks in the Amazon Rainforest she jumps at the chance.

With Elizabeth heading off, Calla finds herself on her own adventure as she attends the School of Good Sisters, a boarding school run by nuns that Elizabeth attended when she was a child. But trouble is afoot at the school and new headmistress, Magda DeWitt - who also happens to be a childhood acquaintance of Elizabeth’s, is up to no good. Soon, Calla finds herself at the centre of a kidnapping plot, with a mother lost deep in the Amazon jungle, and relying on her wits, baked delicacies, a blessing of nuns and her new best friends Edie and Hanna to uncover the truth…

How to be Brave is a delightful twist on the classic boarding school story and it makes for an enjoyable, lively and heart-warming read. It is a story of girl power, making friends, a very special duck, nuns and lots of biscuits. The story takes the good versus evil narrative approach and sees the students rebel against the new regime and rules with the support of their teachers. For readers familiar with the Harry Potter series, they will notice similarities with Harry and his mates trying to overthrow Dolores Umbridge after she took over at Hogwarts. It worked as a storyline then and it works well again here.

Rather than professors, there are nuns and they are very partial to naughtiness. Apprentice wizards are replaced by young girls all of whom are modern protagonists and make for excellent female role models. They are brave, resourceful and full of girl power. In their bid to overthrow headmistress Magda DeWitt, the students are up for pulling any prank and things get more outrageous as the story progresses. The mischief making is a great deal of fun and I took much delight in the antics of the not-so-good sisters behaving badly. It turns out that no challenge can not be overcome as long as you have friends, plenty of spirit and delicious baked treats.

Readers will find themselves keen to attend the School of the Good Sisters that is a far cry from my view of a traditional boarding school. There are no moody matrons, lessons in handwriting and algebra, or strict discipline. Instead, you’ll most likely find students out on the roof, enjoying lessons in astrology, baking, woodland camping and how to maintain a helicopter, and of course, eating lots of cakes and biscuits - sweet treats are dished out more readily than homework at the School of the Good Sisters.

What makes the story stand-out from the crowd is Daisy May Johnson’s authorial voice, it is really unique and I found the writing style highly engaging. The conversational tone makes it feel like you are sat with the author as she is retelling you the story that she herself has been told - it was easy to picture myself sat in the North Tower bedroom with Good Sister June, eating pink wafers, custard creams and lemon drizzle cake and listening to Johnson share her story. And then there are the footnotes. Now, it is highly unusual that I read a fiction book with footnotes but I thoroughly enjoyed Johnson’s use of them - they are clever, witty and genuinely add something extra to the story.

A very well-written and appealing debut.

Recommended for 8+.

With huge thanks to Daisy May Johnson and Pushkin Press for the advanced reader copy that I received via Netgalley.
Profile Image for Liz Filleul.
Author 11 books8 followers
January 22, 2021
This first MG novel by Daisy May Johnson has the 'feel' of a golden age classic, but with a plot set firmly in the digital era. Anyone familiar with Johnson's blog or socials won't be surprised by the book's content: it's an adventure set in a girls' boarding-school, with lots of heart, an extremely villainous villain and a group of plucky girls. There are plenty of jokes too, which I'm sure will amuse the target age group. Most unusually for a novel, the book contains footnotes - and extremely delightful they are too. The young and young-at-heart will love this book. And if you're an adult who doesn't enjoy kids' books, this is a good one to buy the 8-12-year-old children in your life.

Thanks to NetGalley and Pushkin Press for an ARC of this book.
Profile Image for Eule Luftschloss.
1,647 reviews52 followers
February 1, 2021
trigger warning

Calla is glad to leave her old school but sad it has to be under these circumstances: Her mother is going on an expedition she has planned since girlhood, and since there is nobody else who could care for Calla, our protagonist goes to a boarding school where things are not all right.

I was confused by the unexpected beginning of this book, which is about Elizabeth, Calla's mum, who in turn went to the boarding school we're reading about. But in retrospect I can tell you that it was the right start for this story.

It boils down to a kind of Umbridge situation where pupils and teachers conspire against the headmistress because she's an awful human being. Most often I don't have any feelings towards the antagonist, but oooh I have them today. She replaced all the fiction books in the library with algebra books!

I wanted this to go on longer and was upset as I had only 50 pages left because I knew it would end soon. If this going to be a series, I want to know as soon as possible.
I liked the characters, the plot, but especially the writing. Footnotes make everything better. If intended or not, the puns were awesome. (What do you call it when it rains ducks? Fowl weather.)

This might be one of those rare cases where I will purchase a physical copy of an arc later on because I need it in my life. If you're into middlegrade fiction you'll love this.

The arc was provided by the publisher.
Profile Image for Katrina.
142 reviews4 followers
January 24, 2021
Captivating right from the start!

This book pulls on your heart-strings and builds great empathy for the characters and their situations, both in life generally as well as the mystery they find themselves in.

A brilliant, good vs. evil story, with excellent pacing that makes it a real page-turner.

I enjoyed the footnotes, having never come across this in a children’s book before and the additional information and explanations were wonderful.

It is so different in terms of writing style compared to anything else out there at the moment.

I believe this book should win many awards – I will be shocked if it doesn’t!
Profile Image for Chris.
744 reviews99 followers
August 31, 2021
Good Sister Christine nodded. “People who tell you what not to read are generally not good people,” she said.

When a book begins ‘This is a story about three things’ and lists them as being brave, an Amazonian duck, and footnotes, you know this is no common or garden novel. Yes, if you’re a fan of Enid Blyton, Elinor Brent-Dyer and Angela Brazil, and have expectations that How to be Brave will be in the mould of classic girls boarding school fiction, you won’t be disappointed — but it’s so much more than that.

It’s a satisfying tale of how adversity of all kinds is overcome, but in place of the magic associated with fantasy we have a kind of heightened reality — because The School of the Good Sisters at Little Hampden has no ordinary curriculum and no ordinary teaching staff: here the subjects on the timetable include not just cooking but also welding, survival skills, helicopter maintenance and sundry surprising topics, and the teachers here happen to be what’s called a Blessing of Nuns.

In addition the school has two extra advantages in its favour: it has a library stocked with the most appropriate literature — books by Eva Ibbotson, Noël Streatfeild and Elizabeth Goudge for example, even The Lord of the Rings — and shelves, cupboards and drawers storing cakes of every kind, exquisite pâtisseries and biscuits including pink wafers. And of course architecturally it has all the best bits of Malory Towers, Hogwarts, and The Turrets.

How to be Brave is principally the story of orphan Elizabeth North and, a few years later, her daughter Calla who is half an orphan. Elizabeth is scatterbrained but develops one area of expertise, a very special little brown bird with the unlikely name of Mallardus Amazonica. (Latin purists will know how unlikely.) At boarding school she makes one lifelong friend, Chrissie Poplin, and one lifelong enemy, Magda DeWitt. In time her fatherless daughter Calla also finds herself there when Elizabeth, now an expert anatidologist, is offered a job to study the Amazonian duck in the wild. But who is the new headteacher who has replaced the approachable nun who had taken Calla’s mother under her wing, and how come the newcomer is such a bad apple?

The scene is thus set for an almighty showdown which the author orchestrates so well; to say much more would be unforgivable but suffice to say expectations will largely be met, and a bit more besides. How to be Brave is such a satisfying read, switching from heartfelt emotions to humour and from jeopardy to relief with a lightness of touch that’s both sensitive and witty. There’s a big focus on the friendship that’s always a crucial ingredient in this genre, and here it takes the form of Hannah Kowalczyk and Edie Berger, plus the particular persons of Good Sisters June and Christine.

If the story is satisfying on even the most superficial of levels it receives added richness from the distinctive voice and interests of the author. As a blogger and book reviewer she reveals a not uncritical enthusiasm for the titles she discusses, and as an academic she is well versed in how her chosen genre ticks. So not only do we have a preponderance of funny but informative footnotes but also a wealth of literary references, mostly pointers to classic genre titles and authors, all designed to encourage the new reader to read beyond more recent boarding school stories (such as the Harry Potter books) to the originals that inspired them.

And here is the message (if message there is) that I think Daisy May Johnson has embedded in this novel. This genre may be regarded by some as mere escapist literature, castigated or even banned by self-appointed guardians of childhood morality as inappropriate, but — as Good Sister Christine says — if such people are telling you what not to read they may not be as nice as they think they are.

Which is a roundabout way of saying this is an absolute joy to read, and that you should read it!
Profile Image for Juli Anna.
2,458 reviews
Shelved as 'abandoned'
October 30, 2021
I thought I was the target audience for this book (I love footnotes! and ducks!), but I didn't like the authorial voice and the story didn't hold my attention.
Profile Image for Raven.
3,384 reviews53 followers
January 16, 2021
A really bizarre book, not quite sure what's going on here. Seemed to be quite all over the place and trying to be different books rather than finding its own voice.
Profile Image for Joey Susan.
622 reviews37 followers
February 25, 2021
Thank you so much to Pushkin Press and Netgalley for the earc to read and review.

What an unusual story this is, I honestly still don’t really know what to make of it, there were parts I liked and other parts I didn’t. It was such a strange story but I’m happy to have had the chance to read it.

So the story is told through Good Sister June who is heavily obsessed with biscuits and cakes, though pretty much every character in this book is too. She starts by telling Elizabeth’s story, then she hits fast forward to tell Calla’s story. We also meet up with a few characters that played a part in both stories, and one is the central villain in both.

What a variety of characters this book held though honestly there were so many, all so very different and each offered something different to the story. The best of the characters for me though was Edie, she was hilarious, her uprising was amazing, she was my favourite part of this whole book. She held it together in my opinion and just as I personally found I was getting a bit bored she made it so much more fun, so she gets a mention.

I loved that in both parts of the story the girls made a lifelong friendship, they found something to hold onto while at the school, both had the same bully and both ended up learning more than they thought and actually enjoying their stay at the boarding school.

Something I found I didn’t like all that much was the footnotes, now I get that some held a bit of extra information that we needed but the back and forth between the story to the notes was a bit much. I kept getting confused and a bit annoyed by having to interrupt the story to find out what the Good Sister June wanted to share as an extra fact.

I don’t care at all for the very abrupt ending, it didn’t actually close up the story or end it at all, I would have loved one finally chapter to close the story up completely. I still had a couple questions that weren’t answered, a few pei es if information that I felt could and should have been shared. I also would have loved a little more on Elizabeth when she was at school her story wasn’t as long as it could have been.

Overall I did enjoy the story as a whole, it was a fun albeit very unusual read. It held a huge array of characters both good and bad, the actions the girls pursue gave me St. Trinian’s vibes which was funny to read those parts. I love a fun boarding school and friendship based book and this one met the goals of that. It was certainly not at all what I expected from this book but it was still a fun and interesting read.
Profile Image for Bobby.
73 reviews7 followers
June 18, 2021
→ 3.5 Stars

I was really looking forward to this charming (it was definitely charming) looking middle grade that promised boarding school antics and rebellious students and whilst it delivered on all those things, it was just slightly too bizarre for my tastes at times. How to Be Brave follows Calla, a 12 year old girl who's mother is a scientist focusing on a specific breed of duck and an unexpected job offer means that Calla is shipped off to a boarding school (her mother also went there) run by nuns for six months. When she arrives she discovers that things have took a turn for the worse since her mum attended.

This book has a really zany and eccentric form of storytelling which perfectly matches the characters and the plot. It's filled with humour and crazy situations, as well as plenty of footnotes. I'm a sucker for footnotes so I enjoyed these immensely although because I was reading an ebook version it was strenuous having to scroll through numerous pages to find the footnotes and then scrolling back which happened a lot! Calla is a strong, bright protaganist who has a wonderfully deep love for her mum. Her new friends are incredibly odd but in the best way possible and the nuns all have so much personality!

The plot itself is a bit strange. There's a lot of having to suspend belief due to the main villain being a classmate of Calla's mother who still holds a grudge after thirty years. She's also obsessed with finding this rare duck in the Amazon so she's created this whole kidnapping debacle in order to achieve this. As an adult is was just a bit too strange for me but obviously this is aimed at a middle grade audience who will probably enjoy the unconventional storyline a bit more then I did. There were also a few things that happened a bit too conveniantly such as a barrel already up on the roof just waiting for someone to build a fire in it or one of the nuns being able to fly a helicopter. It's all a little too easy but it does add to the fun of it all.

Overall, this is a heartwarming and fast paced book that is packed with charming characters and outlandish antics. Perfect for those who loved Mallory Towers (it also reminded me a little of a younger version of Wild Child!) and are looking for an equally exciting boarding school adventure. Also there's biscuits. Lots and lots of biscuits.

* I received an ARC copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Any quotes included in this review are subject to change. Massive thank you to Pushkin Press for providing me with a copy.
Profile Image for Mélanie Mcgilloway.
10 reviews51 followers
February 7, 2021
Every so often, a book comes along that, despite being firmly anchored in the tradition of British children’s literature, is like no other. “How to be Brave” is one of those books.

This is a book that expertly weaves motifs of traditional school stories with elements contemporary life, making it both timeless and very much of its time*
The school might be look like a traditional boarding school (it’s really not), the majority of its students might look privileged, but at the heart of the tale is a much loved child that knows hardship, worring whether bills will be paid, receiving parcels from the food bank. And love, love in all its forms, defines this story. Parents do need to be out of the way for children to have a proper adventure, but it is never of any doubt that Calla is loved and cherished by her mother.
Of course there is adventure galore, clever and resourceful children, plenty of baking talk too, as well as a good dose of rebellion against the rules; all quintessential to good school story.

The use of footnotes (much underused in literature in my opinion) is a glorious addition. It brilliantly showcases the author’s agile repartee (mentions of dress with pockets and musings on custard creams, to mention a few) and allows the narrator to build a special relationship with the reader. We know how the narrator feels, they invite us in, we are not just bystanders.

It’s glorious, it really is, to the very end**. And there is no doubt about it: Calla, her mother, her friends, the splendid blessing of nuns*** and their creator Daisy May Johnson are a new force to be reckoned with.

* I know, I didn’t think it made sense either. But you’ll understand exactly what I mean when you read it.

** Spoiler: I cried.

***I never thought I’d ever write this in a review!
Profile Image for Steph Kimble.
13 reviews
February 2, 2021
Calla and Elizabeth North are the unlikely strong female role models girls need these days.

When Elizabeth North, duck expert and, admittedly, flighty mum, gets the opportunity of a lifetime to study ducks in the Amazon, she and her daughter Calla both know she can't pass it up. So Calla is shipped off to her mum's old boarding school, which Elizabeth has fond memories of from when her own world turned upside down. But things have certainly changed since Elizabeth's school days - and not in a good way! Calla finds herself caught up in trying to rid the school of its new, evil headmistress - while also trying to save her mum!

Calla is the picture of unconditional love for her mum. Despite Elizabeth's tendency to forget to (or be unable to) pay bills or afford food that doesn't come off the bottom shelves of the supermarket, Calla supports her mum's dreams fiercely, making sure she takes the opportunity in the Amazon. She is strong while still showing vulnerability and is exactly the kind of role model girls need - to see that soft and strong are not mutually exclusive.

Daisy May Johnson has created a thing of beauty with this story. It's written in a fresh way and the use of footnotes in a novel is highly unusual but really effective here. Although it ended before I was really ready, it just means, hopefully, that things are all set for a sequel, and I for one can't wait to read it.
Profile Image for Lauren.
237 reviews3 followers
July 7, 2021
Thank you to Poppy at Pushkin Press for my eCopy of How to be Brave! I loved this book so much that I raced out to buy myself a physical copy.

This is a really fun, middle grade read that is of course about more than just ducks and biscuits. Narrated by one of the Good Sisters, who looks quite like a penguin, there are fun footnotes and a cast of charming characters.

“Elizabeth North was one of the bravest and strongest women in the entire world.”

Set in a boarding school that Calla Rose’s mother Elizabeth once attended, the lighthearted fun is sprinkled with the exploration of grief and what it means to be who you are. With her Mum on a journey to the Amazon rainforest, Calla is left worrying about her well-being whilst joining a rebellion against the mean headmistress who has taken over.

“People who tell you what not to read are generally not good people.”

Eddie, excellent at subterfuge, and the ferocious ball of fire that is Edith are a couple of favourite characters. Though I would never say no to a sit down with the sisters over a cup of tea and some biscuits.

“Gondor calls for aid.” It is an absolutely bizarre and brilliant read, the first book to ever make me laugh out loud. And oh god I’m emotional over a duck.
Profile Image for Steph.
4,486 reviews48 followers
April 1, 2022
Well this was #mglit that I will certainly be recommending. Ducks, fondant, a girls’ revolution, & a truly memorable boarding school experience… How to be Brave is charming, sweet, & absolutely overflowing with delightful footnotes.

“Sometimes there is ‘extra work’ that feels a bit like a firework in your heart.”

“She had survived the loss of the life that she had lived.”

“You don’t ever forget what people are. What they meant to you. And you made me remember that. Them. Everything. You made me want to remember. You made it not hurt.”

“And then the two of them looked at each other and realized that they were friends and that they would be friends for the rest of their lives.
After all of the complicated things that had happened in Elizabeth’s life, it really was just as simple as that.”
Profile Image for rohini.
148 reviews1 follower
March 9, 2021
How to Be Brave was a strange yet capturing book. The witty footnotes and POV were interesting and very enjoyable!

The story follows Calla North as she has to go to a boarding school when her duck-lover mum goes to an expedition to the Amazon. There she meets Edie and Hanna and the dreaded Headmistress. The girls start a revolution to stop the Headmistress' oppressive reign and save Calla's mum when she's kidnapped.

The plot was interesting and quite gripping. The writing and the constant mentions of confectionery were very funny. The story started as we followed Elizabeth and then it shifted to Calla which I found a bit odd.

The characterisation was brilliant. Calla was a well rounded character but Edie and Hanna were absolutely brilliant! They were very likable and we got a subtle hint of Edie's backstory. I wish it was more developed but it was great that we got to see a different side to her anyway!

Overall this was an enjoyable read and highly recommended! I would love this as a series!

Thanks to netgalley and the publisher for the E-arc!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Kathy.
2,998 reviews7 followers
December 24, 2022
A sweet adventure with a kidnapped, absent-minded mother and her daughter, backed by intrepid fellow girls at a boarding school run by adventuresome nuns (they teach helicopter maintenance!), and up against an evil headmistress. Plus ducks. Lots and lots of ducks. And biscuits (or, as American kids will hopefully figure out, cookies), lots and lots of sweets (because everyone knows that you can't have a good adventure without being fortified by a good pink wafer biscuit. Or maybe a Victoria sponge. It has lots of footnotes where the narrator comments on the action, so kids will be very practiced on footnotes by the end of this. The story really reminded me of Roald Dahl in its almost fairy tale-like quality.
212 reviews8 followers
April 17, 2021
I was drawn to this because it promised to be written in a Mallory Towers school type way and it was a good read but for me it didn't quite deliver.
I liked the heroine Calla as she isn't worried about being different and some of the scenes with her and the other students were great.
However I have 2 issues with the book that prevent me given it more stars. First the footnotes didn't add anything to to to story and after a while I just stopped reading them as they were irritating me. Secondly there wasn't enough time ar school
Overall a good story that doesn't quote hit the mark
Profile Image for Julie.
716 reviews15 followers
June 8, 2021
With thanks to NetGalley and Macmillan Children's Publishing Group for an early copy in return for an honest review.

A fun and quirky middle grade read. I think the book has a distinctly British vibe/sense of humor (which I like, but some students may not get it) and a unique narrator. I also like the use of footnotes in the book and this would be a fun way to introduce young readers to footnotes. The story has strong good vs evil vibes and I liked the look at a more unique boarding school educational experience. Definitely a fun read for middle grade readers.
Profile Image for Sarah.
37 reviews26 followers
August 13, 2021
This was an adorable little book that made me want to have boarding school adventures with newlyfound friends, and eat biscuits all day. The chapters are written in a very unique fashion, with some being only a few lines long to some spanning a few pages. Although the story was very predictable, I think it would make a great children’s film on Disney+. What I found a tad bit annoying in the book were the footnotes as they laid out everything in the book, and therefore taking away any air of mystery the book could have. Perhaps it may be because I am not the target audience for the book, but I do think that it’s better to show than to tell every detail.
1,140 reviews6 followers
August 18, 2021
Clever girls that work together with fun and exciting adults. The story arc was a little obvious and I didn’t like the narrator inserting itself into the story. I found Edie to be more interesting as a character than Calla. I would read a book about Edie. And I’m kind of confused about the title. Who was brave? Elizabeth? Yes, but we don’t hear about that part of the story. Who else was brave? This story has some characteristics of the old classics like Anne of Green Gables but felt chaotic at times.
Profile Image for Dolly.
3 reviews
October 28, 2022
This reads like the novel "Matilda": similar style of writing, children challenging an evil headmistress, a sense of magic and wonder (even though there is no magic in this story). It was just a bit inconsistent and seemed to jump around from plot points It's not really an issue though. I definitely recommend this if you're a fan of that British, fairytale-like charm Ronald Dahl wrote with.
Profile Image for Rebecca Wallis.
11 reviews
November 21, 2022
5 stars. Have recommend to the upper KS2girls who I really think will appreciate the humour and fierce adventure. Things I loved:
1. really enjoyed the use of footnotes to embellish the narrators voice, even listening to the audio book -these were well introduced and included.
2. It’s lovely to see Daisy May Johnson’s wealth of literature experience coming through with the subtle intertextuality in the books that the young girls smuggle in.
3. I also loved the dynamics between the three main characters (can’t wait until Edie’s story!) and the unique boarding school narrative.
Profile Image for Becky.
120 reviews1 follower
May 16, 2021
Thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for the ARC of this title.

A quirky middle-grades novel that many readers will enjoy. The characters had personality and spunk. The storyline had everything you need - a boarding school, an evil headmistress, and a mystery to solve. The use of footnotes was unique, but at times distracting...but if you take the time to read them as you should, they do add to the story and help develop the narrator’s voice.
Profile Image for Kara (bookishskippy).
590 reviews37 followers
Want to read
August 11, 2021
4 stars

Super great read for a middle grade author!
here is the synopsis why i ask you guys to pick this up!

Daisy May Johnson's How to Be Brave is a delightfully zany yet heartwarming middle-grade novel about a young girl who bands together with her boarding school friends to find her missing mother. Calla North and her mother Elizabeth live a quiet but happy life together.

Thank you for the arc once again!
Profile Image for BookBairn.
310 reviews9 followers
March 20, 2022
I loved this book! I loved the introduction that started with the mother and then how the story was ultimately concluded by the daughter and how their relationship was central to the story. I really enjoyed this new take on the boarding school story and found the mystery, the adventure, the biscuits and the whole cast of characters to be brilliant. I felt the ending was a little rushed however and I just wanted more. My favourite part of this story was not actually the main character but her best friend and mischief-maker extraordinaire Edie. With resistance, rebellion and friendship at it’s heart this is a brilliant read!
Profile Image for Celia.
1,371 reviews86 followers
June 9, 2022
This is a children's book written by an adult who loves boarding-school-stories for, I suspect at least in part, other adults who love boarding-school-stories. I therefore enjoyed it a lot! I did struggle to imagine modern children appreciating its style and humour though. Another review describes it as twee, and it is rather, but deliberately and enjoyably so. I don't think I'll come back for the sequel though.
Profile Image for Lane McLoud.
28 reviews23 followers
July 26, 2021
This book was a fun adventure! I felt connected to the characters from the start and was drawn into the plot quickly. I loved the personalities and abilities of Callie and her boarding house mates. I also loved that the story revolves around protecting an animal.
Once I started reading, I couldn’t put it down!
46 reviews
October 3, 2021
An utterly fun book. Any book that believes that headteachers have superpowers is always going to be a wonderful book (my fabulous auntie was a headteacher :) and I am endlessly proud of her).
The book also has a brilliant cast of characters - don't mess with nuns! I would recommend it to everyone.
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