Mask (League of Secret Heroes, Book Two) – Kate Hannigan, illustrated by Patrick Spaziante, Aladdin, 2020. 9781534439146
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4
Genre: historical fantasy
What did you like about the book? Josie, Mae & Akiko are three unlikely friends who have recently learned that, not only do they all have exceptional puzzle-solving talents, when they stand together, they become crime-fighting superheroes known as the Infinity Trinity. Having just defeated supervillain The Hisser and broken up a Nazi spy ring (in the first book, Cape), the trio learns there is much work still to be done, as most of the popular superheroes have either disappeared or are having their power depleted. The plot thickens when Akiko receives a message that her mother has gone missing from Manzanar, the internment camp for Japanese Americans, where most of her family has been sent to live. The girls quickly decamp to California, and soon find themselves embroiled with a new villain, a clown called the Side-Splitter who has legions of clowns doing his bidding, wreaking destruction on the San Francisco Bay area. The girls also discover an outpost of “Room Twelve,” the secret code-cracking organization run by female ‘computers’ and led by Mrs. B, the alter-ego of superhero Palomino. Mrs. B and her team (many of whom are based on real historical figures, highlighted in the backmatter) recruit the girls not only in the fight against the Side Splitter, but to decipher codes being sent to the Japanese military by someone called the Doll Lady. As they pursue this case, Akiko is devastated to see that her mother appears to be in league with the Doll Lady, and needs all her physical and emotional strength, as well as her friends, to find out why.
There is a lot going on in this action-packed adventure – history lessons, epic battles, and family drama will keep the reader engaged from the first chapter. It is definitely helpful to be familiar with the characters and the premise before delving into Book Two. Occasional chapters are told in comic book format; it seems this is more in homage to the popular World War II superhero comic genre than as a plot device. Josie’s narration offers an appealingly youthful perspective on all the action, and we are once again left hanging at the end to look forward to the third book, Boots. An informative author’s note provides historical context on some of the real-life figures mentioned in the book, as well as about the Japanese internment camps and other significant events.
Anything you did not like about the book? In the first book, readers were given a lot of insight into Josie’s character because she is the narrator of the series. Each book in the trilogy is supposed to be focused on one of the three girls, but I didn’t feel like we got enough background about Akiko in this book because Josie was still the narrator, and we only learned what Akiko told her.
To whom would you recommend this book? Fans of the first book will be excited for this installment. The series will appeal to readers who enjoy historical fiction, superhero stories, or spy novels, as well as those who like any of the various Rick Riordan Presents series.
Who should buy this book? Public and elementary school libraries
Where would you shelve it? J Fiction
Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? no
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Leigh Russell King, Lincoln Street School, Northborough, Massachusetts.
Date of review: 5/9/2021