Illustrator: Patrick Spaziante
Series: The League of Secret Heroes #1
Published by Aladdin on August 6, 2019
Genres: Middle Grade, Superheroes, Historical Fiction
Source: The Publisher
A brilliant girl puzzler discovers she’s part of a superhero team!
Josie O’Malley does a lot to help out Mam after her father goes off to fight the Nazis, but she wishes she could do more—like all those caped heroes who now seem to have disappeared. If Josie can’t fly and control weather like her idol, Zenobia, maybe she can put her math smarts to use cracking puzzles for the government.
After an official tosses out her puzzler test because she’s a girl, it soon becomes clear that an even more top-secret agency has its eye on Josie, along with two other applicants: Akiko and Mae. The trio bonds over their shared love of female superhero celebrities, from Fantomah to Zenobia to the Black Cat. But during one extraordinary afternoon, they find themselves transformed into the newest (and youngest!) superheroes in town. As the girls’ abilities slowly begin to emerge, they learn that their skills will be crucial in thwarting a shapeshifting henchman of Hitler, and, just maybe, in solving an even larger mystery about the superheroes who’ve recently gone missing.
Inspired by real-life women from World War II—the human computers and earliest programmers called “the ENIAC Six”.
This book is such a fun mixture of genres and formats: a historical fiction superhero novel with graphic novel elements! Right there, I was sold. This book will appeal to such a wide variety of kids, and I think it will get many of them reading about an era that they wouldn’t otherwise have thought they’d be interested in.
The book is set in the US during WWII, and it highlights the real-life women (and a few men) who contributed to the war effort in truly unique ways! I actually felt like I learned a lot from the book (and the author’s note at the end), but it definitely doesn’t feel like learning while you’re reading. The superhero elements are incredibly fun, and many of the most active superhero sections of the book are told via graphic novel format (via the amazing illustrations from Patrick Spaziante). The book also features a diverse trio of girls (one black, one Irish and one Japanese) who are trying to make the world a better place and touches on issues of racism and the Japanese internment. All three girls have family members fighting in the war, and the fear and tension that goes with that is not overlooked (though the book never gets too heavy-handed). There are a few things that aren’t exactly believable (no one knows that the girls are the superheroes? Those must be some fantastic masks), but you’re not reading this sort of story for believability. Also, a sad event is revealed at the end of the book, but it’s glossed over just a little bit and didn’t feel realistic to me—but this is a middle grade book, and I think Hannigan wanted to include that element without making the book overly depressing. All in all, I would highly recommend this fabulous read!
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
About Kate Hannigan
Growing up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, I always saw my parents reading books and newspapers. So I quickly learned that words were powerful and storytelling was important.
When I was in the fourth grade (rocking the freckles in the photo at left!) I knew I wanted to be a writer. My teacher, Mrs. Tucker, had us craft mysteries in the spirit of Encyclopedia Brown, and the bravest of us read them out loud to the class each Friday. I was hooked!
I loved language. I loved interesting people. And I was very nosy. So I worked on school newspapers in middle school, high school, and college, and then I went on to work at daily newspapers in different cities around the country — including The Dallas Morning News and The San Francisco Chronicle. California living was the greatest, and some of my favorite places on Earth are there!
Now I live in Chicago with my own family — my husband, three kids, and nervous Australian shepherd. I still love language and interesting people, and I’m still nosy. So I spend a lot of time researching and writing fiction and nonfiction — including mysteries! — for readers like you.