Pahua and the Soul Stealer by Lori M. Lee

Pahua and the Soul Stealer by Lori M. Lee. Disney Hyperion, 2021. 9781368068246

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Format: Hardcover

Genre:  Fantasy

What did you like about the book? This story centers on Pahua, a sixth grader, with a special ability to see spirits, a skill set more likely to make her an outcast than Miss Popularity.  She lives in Wisconsin, supported by her mom but far away from their Hmong community.  When an evil spirit takes over the body of her little brother Matt, Pahua (with the help of Zhong, an would-be shaman warrior) is unwittingly ensnared in a quest to save him.  As their adventure progresses, Pahua’s dormant abilities come to life as well as her relationship with shaman warriors of the past. Using witty banter and pop-culture references, Lee introduces the pantheon of the Hmong mythological universe, which is sure to captivate readers.  A glossary of Hmong vocabulary including pronunciations at the end of the book was extremely helpful; readers unfamiliar with religions from China and southeast Asia will appreciate these references.  The ending subtly hints at  a forthcoming sequel.

Anything you didn’t like about it? Not a negative, but references to the many Hmong deities and creatures might be overwhelming for readers who do not have this background knowledge. The relationship between some characters and events jumps around and could cause some confusion.

To whom would you recommend this book? Readers, in grades 3 to 8, who have enjoyed other Rick Riordan Presents novels may enjoy this title as well.  

Who should buy this book? This would be a good purchase for late elementary to middle schools or public libraries that cannot get enough mythology stories with strong female protagonists.

Where would you shelve it ? Fantasy

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? I feel that this title would reside near the top of the “to read” pile.

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Elena Schuck, Nathaniel H. Wixon School Library, Dennis, Massachusetts

Date of review: December 5, 2021

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