A feisty heroine

filled star filled star filled star filled star star unfilled
julia-reads Avatar


How to Heal a Gryphon features a feisty young heroine who isn’t afraid to be herself. Giada was definitely my favorite part of this story. She’s proudly plus-size, brave, and determined to pave her own path.

Giada Bellantuono lives with her family on the Amalfi Coast and comes from a long line of sworn magical healers. Giada is on the cusp of her 13th birthday when she will take her own oath, but the only problem is that she’s always felt a strong connection to helping animals- not healing humans like the generations before her. When her brother suddenly goes missing, Giada suspects foul play from the Malocchio, the Italian Evil Eye. Determined to save him, she embarks on a dark and harrowing quest that puts her magic, bravery, and convictions to the test.

The setting of the Amalfi Coast gives a warm and sunny feel to the story, perfect for the magic taking place. I also loved the drastic distinction between that of the Amalfi Coast and the dark underworld. It was delightfully creepy in comparison- maybe almost too creepy, though? Just thinking about the age ranges that would pick up this book, I wonder if a younger reader might enjoy the first part of the book but then be a bit too scared to continue once the book takes a darker turn about halfway through. Maybe I’m overthinking it, but I know a younger version of me might be a bit freaked out if I started reading what I thought would be a fun book about magical gryphon training only to suddenly read about a witch threatening to eat her brother’s heart. In some ways, I think the writing reads more like it’s made for a younger reader even though it is labeled as middle grade, but do keep in mind that it gets a little darker as you read on.

There were lots of great messages snuck in for readers (especially young readers!) that I loved to see. The power in taking a break to practice some self care and recharge, plus sizes being normalized, and friends supporting each other in their own unique endeavors.

While the pacing seemed a bit uneven throughout the book, it was still a quick enough read that I didn’t notice that as much. I would recommend this to young middle grade readers who like to read about magical quests with strong heroines.