How To Be Brave by Daisy May Johnson


This book, written by Daisy May Johnson of Didyoueverstoptothink,  talks a lot about a) scones and b) the Chalet School, which is good.  Obviously.  It even makes the excellent point that school maths lessons might actually be useful if they focused on how to calculate the best jam to cream ratio for putting on your scones.   It’s partly a traditional boarding school story – new girl goes to boarding school, makes friends and enemies, etc – albeit over two generations, the first part being about the mother and the second part about the daughter.  But in general it’s more akin to something like The Demon Headmaster, as the baddie who was the mother’s school nemesis becomes an evil headmistress in the daughter’s day, responsible for everything from making kids eat sprout cakes to kidnapping.

The mum becomes an absent-minded scientist, which got me thinking that there are several absent-minded scientists in the traditional GO genre, but that they’re all dads.  I’m thinking in particular of Professor Richardson in the Chalet School books and Quentin Kirrin in the Famous Five books.   So we’re striking a blow for feminism in this book 🙂 .  The said mum is obsessed with ducks.  There’s a strong duck theme in the book!

If you’re looking for a traditional boarding school book, this isn’t it, as I’ve said; but it’s certainly got elements of one, as the girls bond together to overcome the baddie.  And there’s also quite a bit of Blytonesque code-breaking, mystery solving and adventure, which isn’t traditional school story stuff but is definitely traditional Girls’ Own stuff.   There’s also a lot of involvement from the narrator, including numerous footnotes in every chapter, which won’t be to everyone’s taste but is quite amusing and made me laugh.

I’m totally out of touch with what young girls read these days, but I’m pretty sure that I’d have loved this when I was 7 or 8.  Congratulations to Daisy May Johnson on having her first book included on the list of nominations for the CILIP Carnegie Medal, alongside the likes of Malorie Blackman, Anne Fine, Hilary McKay and Benjamin Zephaniah, and thanks for a very entertaining read.




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