The Serpent's Secret

Parsippany, N.J., resident Kiranmala ("Just Kiran is fine") is not having the 12th birthday she anticipated. Born on Halloween, Kiran always wants to dress up as something scary for her birthday. But no matter how much she begs, her parents always make her dress as a princess. According to Kiran's Ma and Baba, she is "a real Indian princess"--"the daughter of an underworld serpent king"--and Halloween is the "single day [she] can actually look like one!" Even though Kiran hates princess things, her parents not only force her into a princess costume, they also have the audacity to get "swallowed by a rakkhosh and whisked away to another galactic dimension."

Post-parental disappearance, Kiran finds a note from her mother: "the magical spell protecting us all has been broken on this, your twelfth birthday. Forgive us for trying to shield you from the truth." It goes on to tell Kiran to "trust the princes" and to make sure she takes her gummy vitamins, then cuts off in an ugly inkblot. Moments after reading the note, "the strangest trick-or-treaters" Kiran has ever seen arrive on her doorstep: two boys, probably brothers, about her age, one "so handsome he almost melted [her] eyeballs." They are the princes, here to escort princess Kiran back to her real home... right after they immobilize this other rakkosh (a "carnivorous, snot-trailing demon") that has suddenly appeared in Kiran's house.

Inspired by the Bengali folktales author Sayantani DasGupta heard as a little girl, The Serpent's Secret is a silly, fantastical series opener. Friendly, slapstick humor, a series of riddles to solve and appealing spot illustrations by Vivienne To make Kiran's slightly surreal journey delightfully entertaining. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor

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