Pahua and the Soul Stealer

Lori M. Lee. Disney/Riordan, $16.99 (432p) ISBN 978-1-368-06824-6
Inspired by Southeast Asian mythology, this lively middle grade debut follows reserved, empathic Hmong 11-year-old Pahua Moua, who hides her ability to see spirits. Worried about standing out even more in her predominantly white Wisconsin town, Pahua also fears that revealing her abilities will lead to losing her only friend: a talking cat spirit named Miv. When Pahua accidentally unleashes a malevolent bridge spirit that threatens her younger brother’s life, she teams up with strong-willed Zhong, a young Hmong shaman warrior sent by the elders, to seek the lightning ax—a “celestial weapon of the gods” once wielded by “the first and greatest shaman”—in the spirit realm. Lee (Forest of Souls) adroitly develops the friendship between Pahua and Zhong as they bond over their insecurities and complicated familial relationships. Humorous dialogue (“His second cousin is married to Huab Tais Zaj’s nephew’s cousin on his mom’s side”) from the demons and spirits brings a much-needed levity to each challenge that the two girls face. Featuring Hmong representation and action-packed adventure, this high-spirited, emotionally resonant series starter will satisfy any fan of the imprint. Back matter includes a glossary and an author’s note. Ages 8–12. Agent: Suzie Townsend, New Leaf Agency. (Sept.)
Reviewed on : 08/05/2021
Release date: 09/07/2021
Genre: Children's
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