Kid’s Book Review: How To Be Brave

Kid’s Book Review: How To Be Brave

About the Book and Author

How to Be Brave by Daisy May Johnson is a big-hearted celebration of the power of resourceful girls. Described by our 11 year reviewer Iona as ‘a wacky, gripping story’, it is published in the UK by Pushkin Press. Iona’s full review can be found if you scroll down this post.

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?

How to Be Brave cover
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. You can find out more about her by visiting her website.

Book Review

I thought this book expressed the true meaning of being brave and how in life you have to go through hard situations before you get to the good stuff

How To Be Brave is a mystery novel that left me hanging at the end of every chapter, I couldn’t put the book down! I found that Daisy May Johnson had really original ideas such as one of the main characters being so obsessed with ducks (I would love to know why)! I followed Calla, the main protagonist, throughout the course of the book as if I was actually her and I was experiencing her time at the School of the Good Sisters myself. I thought this book expressed the true meaning of being brave and how in life you have to go through hard situations before you get to the good stuff.

The first part of the book covers the childhood of Calla’s mum which explains later events in Calla’s life. It helps set the scene and understand better the choices made by Calla’s mum about their lifestyle. They struggle with money but the mum jumps at the chance to save a rare species of duck by going on an expedition to the Amazon. Meanwhile, Calla gets sent to her mum’s childhood boarding school where she meets her two best friends.

There are no illustrations in this book but I could imagine clearly the situations in my head. The short chapters including some containing only a few words or quirky formatting made it an easy and interesting read. I was drawn to Calla’s friend Edie because I thought her daring pranks were what made the book funny in tough situations – she really brightened up the mood. She had the nerve to cover the school in rainbow-coloured foam – I don’t think I would!

I think this book is suited from age 10 and up if you like a gripping and wacky story and a long read. While the story came to a close, a follow up by the same author, How To Be True, seems to be in the pipeline and I will be looking out for it…


Page Preview

If you would like to buy a copy of the book we invite you to order it from your local independent book shop.

Or, you can shop on-line and support our Kids Reviews page by sourcing your discounted book via this link

Please Buy Here

Alternatively, we suggest that you visit your local library and request to borrow a copy from a friendly librarian.

Whichever you choose, we hope you enjoy being part of your unique reading community – happy reading everyone!

Reviewer Profile

Iona reviewer
  • Name: Iona
  • Age: 11 years
  • Likes: reading, playing football and nature
  • Dislikes: aubergines and getting up too early
  • Favourite Book: the Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart
  • Favourite Film: High School Musical 1-2-3
  • Favourite Song: Rewrite the Stars from The Greatest Showman