Girl Giant and the Monkey King is a charming middle grade about trust and friendship. Within Girl Giant and the Monkey King are other themes such as being ashamed of our culture and needing to accept ourselves. Keep reading this book review to see how much I enjoyed this one!
Eleven-year-old Thom Ngho is keeping a secret: she’s strong. Like suuuuper strong. Freakishly strong. And it’s making it impossible for her to fit in at her new middle school.
In a desperate bid to get rid of her super strength, Thom makes a deal with the Monkey King, a powerful deity and legendary trickster she accidentally released from his 500-year prison sentence. Thom agrees to help the Monkey King get back his magical staff if he’ll take away her strength.
Soon Thom is swept up in an ancient and fantastical world in where demons, dragons, and Jade princesses actually exist. But she quickly discovers that magic can’t cure everything, and dealing with the trickster god might be more trouble than it’s worth.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
Middle grade books with mythology are probably my favorite middle grades. Ever since Rick Riordan’s imprint, I’ve become obsessed with books that make mythology and diverse cultures more accessible for younger readers. While Girl Giant and the Monkey King might skew a bit younger than some of the other Riordan stories, it shares the discussion about culture. Set in a contemporary setting, Thom struggles to accept her powers and identity.
This struggle became emotional to me as she does not want to embrace her Vietnamese roots (for culture day and lunch boxes). How her differences mark her apart from her peers in her new school and how, despite her ethnicity, she doesn’t seem to be able to just fit in. For me, middle school was about trying to fit in, figuring out who we are in the midst of our peers, and how it feels to know you’re the Outsider.
Girl Giant and the Monkey King is a story about self-acceptance. It’s a fabulous series starter that manages to mix gods and soccer. At the same time, what I loved, and didn’t expect, was how it discusses friendship and trust. There are times when we want to believe our friends. When the power of belief feels like enough. But the quest to find out who are true friends are is tough. Sometimes it feels like their efforts to protect us from ourselves, can feel harsh. Or times when their manipulation can feel like our own ideas. Girl Giant and the Monkey King became a story about the responsibility of power, finding our true friends, and self-acceptance.