Gennifer Choldenko, The Monkey’s Secret, Hot Key Books/Five Mile Press, 1 August 2015, 265pp., $14.95 (pbk), ISBN 978 1 471403 52 1
We are in San Francisco in 1900. Lizzie lives with her brother Billy and her doctor father, a few steps away from her aunt Hortense and uncle Karl. Aunt Hortense would like her to marry well, but Lizzie has other ideas. She wants to be a doctor. The one person in her father’s house she loves as much as her family is Jing, the Chinese servant, who, Lizzie discovers, has a secret upstairs where he lives. When San Francisco is threatened with the plague, Lizzie finds out more about Chinatown and her own family. She also faces a new tragedy.
Middle primary school students will enjoy Choldenko’s story. It follows the historical truth of San Francisco at the turn of the twentieth century, and it is excellent historical fiction. However it is Lizzie’s struggle to gain equality of education, to find the truth about her self, and the difficulties she has of being taken seriously that make The Monkey’s Secret a compelling read.
Reviewed by Stella Lees