HOW TO HEAL A GRYPHON (A Giada the Healer Novel, 1), by Meg Cannistra, Inkyard Press; Original edition, Oct. 4, 2022, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 8-12)
A girl must defy years of tradition in order to save her brother in How to Heal a Gryphon, the first book in a new series by Meg Cannistra.
With her thirteenth birthday just around the corner, Giada Bellantuono has to make a big decision: Will she join the family business and become a healer or follow her dreams? But even though she knows her calling is to heal vulnerable animals, using her powers to treat magical creatures is decidedly not allowed.
When a group of witches kidnaps her beloved older brother, Rocco, and her parents are away, Giada is the only person left who can rescue him. Swept into the magical underground city of Malafi, Giada will need the help of her new companions to save her brother — or risk losing him forever. —Synopsis provided by Inkyard Press
How to Heal a Gryphon has a lot of good things going for it — a plucky heroine, magical creatures, a talking cat and an underground world. What sets it apart from other middle-grade, though, is its uniqueness. While some elements might feel familiar, I’ve never read another book quite like it.
Author Meg Cannistra transports readers to the Amalfi Coast in Italy. Through her deft hand all the sights, smells and sounds jump off the page. There’s a freshness to Cannistra’s writing that adds to the overall liveliness of her book.
And at the center of Cannistra’s book is Giada. Giada wants to do things her own way while simultaneously honoring tradition. She’s clever and bright and exactly the sort of girl you’d want your own kid to be friends with.
One of the highlights of How to Heal a Gryphon is the interactions within Giada’s family. They love each other. No one is abandoned or shunned. Sure, there’s sibling squabbles and parental disappointments, but everything about the Bellantuonos family feels authentic.
How to Heal a Gryphon is a fresh middle-grade fantasy that should appeal to a wide cross-section of readers. There may be a few readers who stumble over the Italian words, but overall, it’s an accessible, enjoyable read.
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