Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom

Viking. Jul. 2021. 352p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780593206973.
Gr 4-8–Raised by her single mother in London, Kiki Kallira has grown up listening to her mother’s stories of family and folklore from India. When her anxiety is overwhelming, she takes comfort in these stories and reimagines her ancestors as characters she draws in her sketchbook, which provides an escape both literal and metaphorical. Steeped in Hindu mythology, Mandanna’s fast-paced modern take on a classical myth explores the legend of Mysore and the Goddess Chamundeshwari’s victory over the demon king, Mahishasura. While this story is celebrated in the real city of Mysore annually during Dussehra, in Kiki’s it begins when a doorway opens from her world to one she created in her sketchbook, filled with her mother’s folktales with her own fresh spin. Inside the sketchbook world, it is up to Kiki to defeat the demon king before he escapes to the real one. Armed only with her pencil, she makes an unlikely hero, but one that demonstrates the power young people can wield when they trust their talents. Mandanna creates vibrant, relatable characters, including secondary figures like Ashwini and the Crows who are fleshed out enough for readers to connect.
VERDICT While the myth itself may not be familiar to all readers, Mandanna has created an engaging fantastical story that will strongly appeal to readers of Rick Riordan, Roshani Chokshi, and Sayantani DasGupta.

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