How to Heal a Gryphon by Meg Cannistra
Expected Release Date: October 4, 2022
As a sweet magical middle grade read for anyone, for kids who love animals, for witchy Italian lore
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 Malavita, Giada will need the help of her new companions to save her brother—or risk losing him forever.
I adore our main character, Giada. She’s so unabashedly herself, and has such a strong sense of who she is! I think that’s something a lot of kids have, then lose, and many adults take a long time to get back there (or maybe never totally do). Giada holds tight to it, and isn’t afraid to call out people (even adults!) when they are being rude (which at least one adult ABSOLUTELY was). She doesn’t let people shame her about enjoying sweets and food, and she devises her own brilliant salve for thigh chafing which lets be honest, who wouldn’t benefit from that?
Giada is also a great role model, as she is so determined and keeps trying, but she also fails undeniably, and has to work through that and find a way to keep going. Her confidence is never shaken for long. She also is honest and owns up to her mistakes, and asks for help. She’s so wonderful for how smart she is socially and emotionally, and I adore seeing that, especially in characters who are young.
Giada is the dough, and the setting and lore and magic are all the sprinkles and icings and delicious things that add to it. Goodness, just reading the descriptions of Positano, Italy made it skyrocket up to top spots on my travel list! The second cliffs and houses built into the sides of them were mentioned, I was SOLD. And have y’all looked up pictures? It’s gorgeous!! The setting mattered, too. It felt like a character of its own with how much we get Italian expressions and language in the story. Not to mention all the mouthwatering food! And superstitions, and folklore, and legend-come-to-life. I loved it all, and it gave the whole story such a unique and wonderful texture. It was one that made me want to go learn more about many different things, which I always count as a win!
As a small additional note, there were also some mentions of Covid-19 and how that impacted Giada’s family and other magic users in their communities, since their focus is healing people. It was a little touch of reality that further added to the realness of the setting. It also gave more weight to how Giada’s parents feel the pressure and pass that on to Giada, having just gone through this massive health pandemic.
Oh and of course, the story itself! It was so sweet and wonderful and creative. I adored every point of it, and was happy to go wherever Giada took me. With all the other goodness in this book, the story didn’t need much else to shine! The magical elements were a delight to uncover because they covered such practical issues in funny ways that made me wish, desperately, that these communities truly do exist. 😍
Overall I definitely recommend this book, especially for students who love animals, but really for anyone who wants a vivid, creative story of a courageous character and Italian culture.
Thank you to Bookishfirst and Inkyard Press for a free advanced copy of this book. This is my honest review!
PS: Positano, for your viewing pleasure.
4 thoughts on “ARC Review: How to Heal a Gryphon by Meg Cannistra (10/04/2022)”
I do love a good magical middle grade book! Thanks for the review—I hadn’t heard about this one before.
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Happy to help! 🙂