When book two, Kiki Kallira Conquers a Curse, arrived accompanied with the first, I was thrilled. It gave me a chance to re-read book one before diving into the next adventure. It was even more exciting when I was invited to ask a few questions to author, Sangu Mandanna.
Where did the idea for Kiki Kallira and her adventures come from?
I grew up in the south of India, just a couple of hours away from the real Mysore that Kiki’s imaginary kingdom is based on, so I was immersed in the folklore and mythology of that part of the world from a very young age. But it was only when I was visiting as an adult, and listening to my children discover those stories for the first time, that the spark went off in my mind and Kiki’s world was born. I also knew from the very start that I wanted Kiki to have anxiety and OCD, just like I do, because I wanted children struggling with the same things to see that they, too, can be heroes.
What do you hope readers will take from reading Kiki’s adventures?
Most of all, I want readers to end the book with a smile on their faces! I love this story, these characters and this world, and I hope they will too! I also hope anyone reading these adventures finds something that helps them cope this very complicated and ever-changing world, and helps them understand the struggles other people might be facing. And I hope anyone struggling with anxiety or OCD or mental illness feels seen, respected, loved and hopeful.
Kiki suffers from anxiety and finds release in her art, what other tips would you offer children who may empathise with Kiki?
Honestly, I think any (legal!) activity that helps your anxiety is valid. For me, it has been writing, art and reading. For other people, it could be a form of exercise, meditation, collecting things… So my first tip would be to embrace whatever you know helps ease your anxiety. Share it with people you trust. Don’t dismiss it as silly or childish because I promise you, it is probably neither of those things and even if it is, there’s nothing wrong with being silly and childish sometimes!
What might be next for Kiki?
Well, Kiki’s taking some time to herself after a very busy year or so! I love Kiki and her universe(s), but right now, I’m working on something new. I have no doubt Kiki will make herself heard when she has another adventure for me to write about!
Sangu Mandanna was four years old when an elephant chased her down a forest road and she decided to write her first story about it. Seventeen years and many, many manuscripts later, she signed her first book deal. She lives in Norwich, in the east of England, with her husband and kids.
My Review: Kiki travels to Mysore via the drawings in her sketchbook. Richly and vividly imagined, the reader of these adventures travels with her and can sense all the world has to offer.
Action packed, Kiki is asked to help again, though she thought she would never return. This world needs her help and Kiki, being kind and courageous, immediately leaps in to do what she can. What she learns is that this is not easy and she will face dangers, twists and surprises along the way. As a reader, I was gripped and wholly invested in this story, willing certain truths to happen and enjoying the links to Hindu mythology.
In can’t escape the readers attention that Kiki bravely battles OCD and anxiety. With the past couple of years being a struggle for so many of our young readers, this character will open up a world of empathy and understanding for others who may suffer similarly. It will offer hope and support and the knowledge that help is available.
A brilliant pair of books with an enormous character in Kiki! One for KS2 to read and enjoy.