How to Be True – Daisy May Johnson

“We need you to come on a QUEST with us!”

The nuns of the School of the Good Sisters teach their students all of the important things in life, like helicopter maintenance and “how to build the most perfect library ever”. The school has secret passageways, towers and emergency biscuits so you’d need to come up with a pretty compelling reason for me to want to leave. Cue a field trip to Paris…

Edie’s Grand-mère has offered the school use of the family’s château while they’re in Paris, which sounds like an incredibly generous offer. Edie isn’t so sure, though, because she and her Grand-mère don’t exactly see eye to eye. However, being in close proximity to a mystery you’re trying to solve can be mighty helpful.

“We’re going to figure out why somebody keeps trying to steal one of the paintings downstairs and we’re going to stop him because we’re very good at that sort of thing.”

I was disappointed when I figured out this book wasn’t going to be answering the questions I had at the end of How to Be Brave, particularly those about the people the villain worked for. My disappointment lasted all of three seconds, at which point I realised that this book was Edie’s story. Edie, the mischievous spitfire with a revolutionary spirit! My favourite character from the first book!

“I love you a little bit,” said Edie. “Not as much as macarons, for I cannot love anything more than macarons, but definitely more than doughnuts filled with jam.”

Everything I loved about the first book was here too: copious amounts of footnotes of the interesting, helpful variety (who knew that was a thing?!), biscuits and other yummy treats as far as the eye can see and fun, quirky nuns. With self defence skills, no less.

There were also three dogs, a duck, some poison darts, a very important painting and a library I could live in for the rest of my life. With one of a kind swearing (“CHOCOLATE CAKE FILLED WITH JAM!”, “KALE CUPCAKES!”) and a cheese-themed riot, there was plenty to smile about, although there were some serious moments too.

Edie and her friends, Calla and Hanna, proved that they still have their priorities straight: “we must go and investigate and SOLVE things and possibly also get some hot chocolate from the kitchen to fortify our souls.”

No, the website mentioned in the book doesn’t exist (yet). It would have been fun to visit though. One day a publisher is going to figure out that some readers visit every website and send emails to every email address mentioned in a book hoping that just once it’ll result in the discovery of a fun Easter egg.

Favourite quote:


This series is absolutely delightful and I need it to continue for a very, very long time. Hopefully my next visit to the School of the Good Sisters will be suitably bookish. So far we’ve accompanied Calla and Edie on adventures so it simply has to be “more book than person” Hanna’s turn next.

“Will all our school trips be like this?” “Yes,” said Hanna happily. “Isn’t it great?”

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Pushkin Children’s Books, an imprint of Pushkin Press, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Edie was born to a family of troublemakers. When her activist parents leave Paris to protest around the globe, her grandmother decides it’s time she became a proper young lady and so sends her to the School of the Good Sisters.

But to Edie’s surprise, the nuns at the school teach genuinely useful things, like how to build a perfect library, cater for midnight feasts and make poison darts, and mischievous Edie feels right at home. When a school trip to Paris is planned, she worries about returning to the strict order of her grandmother’s chateau – but things are not as she left them. Soon Edie and her rebellious friends are caught up in a mystery involving a precious painting, secrets from her grandmother’s past and a very persistent burglar…

How to Be Brave – Daisy May Johnson

“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.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

A fizzingly funny, heartfelt middle-grade novel about a resourceful girl, her impractical mother and a kidnapping mystery.

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.