A sweet, feel-good middle grade read full of magic, adventure, and fun.

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A sweet, feel-good middle grade read full of magic, adventure, and fun.

It’s a coming of age story with body-positive attitudes and lots of friendship, family, and found family feels. It has great characters and a solid plot with a happy ending. Giada’s a strong, empathetic, and clever female protagonist and true animal lover. They’re are tons of other lovable characters, including Giada’s awesome best friend, a talking black cat, and a spider friend that provides Giada with silk. (My favorite characters are the animals.)

The world has its own unique magic system and is layered with elements from Roman mythology, Italian lore, and Italian culture. It’s set in Italy and you might find yourself looking up the occasional Italian phrase or two. (But, it’s not totally necessary. The occasional Italian phrases can be inferred from context and the story can be easily understood without an Italian-to-English dictionary..)


Gaida comes from a long line of magical healers, gifted with (limited) abilities to heal humans by the god Apollo. But she’s never had a knack for healing humans, she doesn’t love the work, and she’s never felt a connection to Apollo. Healing animals is what comes naturally to her. Frankly, she prefers animals to most people. Diana is the goddess she feels connected to.

Her highly superstitious family loves her, but they aren’t exactly supportive. They’re afraid that she’ll be plagued with misfortune if she doesn’t go into the family business as a healer of humans. They don’t understand why she doesn’t want to devote her life to healing humans. Wishing that her family would accept her as she is, accept her as different instead of expecting her to make herself be like them, Giada heals animals, both non-magical and magical, in secret and tries to work up the courage to tell her family she won’t be going into the career they expect. She’s gotten quite good at the former and has made a lot of animal friends.

What starts with healing a baby gryphon and a little spilled salt & olive oil soon spirals into a mission to rescue her brother, heal another gryphon, and help some somewhat misunderstood underdogs. (Turns out not all of her family’s superstitions are ridiculous.) Along the way, Giada finds a familiar, embraces her unique magic, gains some confidence, and learns to stand up to her family and make them hear her (and see how impressive she is).


Extra kudos for appreciation of underappreciated animals, creatures, and critters. (Like spiders, black cats, etc.)

I love the healthy attitudes about weight and body image in this book. The protagonist is not thin, but is healthy and happy with herself as is. Her family and friends share her healthy attitudes on this matter. I love how Giada handled the occasional judgey fat-phobic stranger with skill, humor, and unapologetic awesomeness.

The villains aren’t pure evil or misunderstood saints, they’re real people that are scary, but that Giada can also empathize with at times. Many of the main characters are flawed, but well-meaning. Most importantly, they learn from their mistakes. Giada and many of the other main characters grow and learn in this story.


A fun story with a female main character kids can look up to, lots of positive themes and messages, and a story good enough to entertain readers of all ages. A sweet, empowering, and heartwarming read that’s great for when you’re in the mood for a family-friendly, romance-free read with a happy ending.

Warnings: Mention of covid-19 pandemic (briefly, in past tense, nothing graphic)

I received a free hardback copy in a BookishFirst raffle. I am writing this review completely honestly and voluntarily.