Review Blog

Nov 02 2015

The Monkey's Secret by Gennifer Choldenko

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Hot Key Books, 2015. ISBN 9781471403521
(Age: 11+) Highly recommended. The Monkey's Secret is set in San Francisco, 1900. Our main character is a strong-willed 13 year old girl named Elizabeth. Elizabeth wants to be a scientist in an era when girls are preened to grow up and get married. In this setting, there are many Chinese immigrants who have created a Chinatown. Even though Elizabeth's family is not wealthy, they do have a Chinese cook and house keeper called Jing. At the same time, rumours of the plague are going through the town and Chinatown is in quarantine. Jing is missing and Elizabeth has discovered Jing's son - Noah - hiding in Jing's room. Elizabeth is determined to help Jing but what is this monkey's secret she has heard about? Where is Jing? Can she keep Noah safe and a secret in her house?
This text is aimed at readers aged 11+ and is highly recommended. Elizabeth is a strong female lead who models regularly that you don't need to follow others, that it is good to think for yourself and how important it is to put others first sometimes. The strength of this young child going against the expected role of females is inspiring. It would be interesting to read with older children and using it to investigate any historical relevance, how friendships develop and how roles have changed over time.
Kylie Kempster

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