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The Secret Keeper Hardcover – June 1, 2006


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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 1-4–The people of Maldinga take their unpleasant secrets to Kalli, the secret-keeper. A baker tells her that he sells bread that weighs less than full measure, a matchmaker reveals that she lied about a groom's merits, and a rich man discloses that he refused to help a beggar that came to his home. Only Taln, a potter, does not bring secrets. Instead, Kalli visits his shop and they enjoy friendly conversations. One winter, she becomes ill, and it is only when the villagers share some happy confidences with her (My mama and I dance in the meadow) that she regains her health. Then Taln arrives to reveal his own hidden thoughts–I love the secret-keeper. The illustrations are an intriguing blend of paint and collage that exude texture and depth. Illuminating oil colors contrast with the softer and more muted watercolors. Expressive faces and postures individualize the characters, and a lovely spread shows the villagers celebrating Kalli's recovery. An uplifting modern fairy tale.–Kirsten Cutler, Sonoma Library, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

K-Gr. 3. Set in an enchanting village, this story about the burden of secrets is buoyed by Solomon's gorgeous illustrations and the often-lovely language used by first-time author Coombs. Tall and mysterious, raven-haired Kalli is Maldinga's secret keeper. Villagers come to her forest home to tell her their shameful secrets, which are transformed into objects that Kalli stores in the drawers that line her cottage. The villagers go away "a little lighter of heart," but Kalli is so weighed down by their revelations that she eventually takes to her bed. It's the blacksmith who comes up with the fine idea of sharing good secrets, which include a whispered declaration from the potter's handsome son: "I love the secret-keeper." All is repaired a little too quickly, but children won't mind too much; they'll likely be captivated by the warm tones of Solomon's paintings, framed in round or rectangular borders, and by Kalli and her fellow Maldingans, their eyes shining with alertness and intelligence as they live harmoniously with nature. Abby Nolan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Lexile Measure: 870L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (June 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0689839634
  • ISBN-13: 978-0689839634
  • Product Dimensions: 10 x 0.4 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,296,853 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Kate Coombs writes picture books, poetry, and middle grade fantasy novels. Her collection of ocean poems, Water Sings Blue, won the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award for 2012. Her most recent books are an Austen-inspired parody of Goodnight Moon called Goodnight Mr. Darcy and The Tooth Fairy Wars, a rollicking face-off between the Tooth Fairy and a boy named Nathan. Earlier picture books include The Secret-Keeper, an original folktale, and Hans My Hedgehog, a retelling of a Grimms' fairy tale. She has also written two comic fantasy books for 3rd through 7th graders, The Runaway Princess and its sequel, The Runaway Dragon. Kate has worked as a K-12 and college teacher and is currently Curriculum Director for a publisher of state history books. After spending most of her life in Los Angeles, Kate now lives in Utah, though she is embarrassed to admit she does not ski. Kate's web address is www.katecoombs.com.

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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4 star
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See all 13 customer reviews
We're thinking of buying more copies to give as gifts.
Kid@Heart
While this wonderful story accepts the unhappy and frightening secrets that people can have, it gives life and hope and happiness at its core.
kc dyer
In The Secret Keeper, Kate Coombs uses beautiful language and vivid imagery to weave this tale about the power of secrets.
Linda Gerber

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Lawrence MacKenzie on June 6, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is a refreshing tale, perfectly illustrated. My copy of The Secret Keeper has already been loaned and read aloud to intrigued school children. The story produced plenty of curiosity, compassion for Kalli the Secret Keeper, and good discussion.

Kate Coombs has a talent for delightful invention. It's not surprising that a dishonest baker, an irresponsible match maker, or many another burdened villager would feel some relief after Kalli has heard one of their guilty secrets. But readers may be surprised to learn what fittingly symbolic objects the secrets turn into in Kalli's magical hands.

This delightful tale is not just about the burdens of the confidante or counselor; it's about how a community comes to broaden its understanding of secret-sharing. In a crisis, the villagers' decency and love emerge. What about telling their very ill Kalli "bright and fair secrets, like a spring morning"? The secrets told in this part of the story (and the butterflies and other beauteous things they turn into) are wonderfully simple and touching. This is where The Secret Keeper becomes a story of honesty and love, and really gains its gentle power.

The dust jacket says Kate Coombs' first book is for readers "4 to 8", but this is a fine book for older children, too, and parents and other adults--perhaps, especially, those in the helping professions.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Marsha S on May 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I had the honor to read a review copy of The Secret Keeper and it is one of my all-time favorite books. I predict that you will be hearing a lot more about Kate Coombs and her books.

The Secret Keeper reads like a fast-paced traditional folk tale. I loved the wry humor and the subtle lessons.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By M. Allen Greenbaum HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on January 29, 2007
Format: Hardcover
"The Secret-Keeper" is a sort of child's version of Nathaniel West's masterpiece, "Miss Lonely Hearts," in which a "helper" is similarly overcome by the demands of those needing help. Of course, as a kids' book, the tone is far lighter and the outcome happier, but they share a theme about the burden of receiving confession.

In a beautifully designed and illustrated medieval/hobbit-like setting, long-haired, quiet "Kalli" welcomes men and women of all ages to tell her their secrets. Some secrets seem relatively innocent ("A plain girl loved a handsome boy and dared not tell him"), some, not so (A bribe induces a matchmaker to makes a bad match), but all of them feel heavy to those who hide them. The magical proceedings, the slightly moralistic tone, and the appearance of hero and heroine give this a classic fairy tale aura, and the arched and rectangular framed pictures (done in lush, ornate design with watercolor, oil, and collage) recall the prototypical illustrations of N.C. Wyeth and other early masters. It's truly a gorgeous book.

The plot revolves around Kalli's unselfish generosity, and how it almost overwhelms her. However, the author doesn't clearly establish Kalli's secret-collecting method, causing some initial unnecessary confusion. "Shed," the baker, admits that he cheats when he weighs his customers' bread. In exchange for her confession taking..."He gave Kalli a basket of fresh rolls and a copper coin." When Kalli hears his secret, she "nodded and caught his words in his hand." Now comes the confusing part: "After Shed trudged away with a sigh, Kalli opened her hand again. Shed's secret was a small grey rock, like a stale breadcrumb. Kalli went inside and tucked the secret into one of the tiny drawers that lines the walls of her cottage.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By DAM on May 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent story for kids and adults, full of excitement and wonderful imagery! Above all, I love the moral that the story teaches. The Secret Keeper really shows how life should be lived to the fullest and that the weight that many of us carry around, simply dealing with every day life, should never keep us from reaching for happiness.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Holly Ormond on May 28, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I absolutely loved this beautifully written folktale. Wouldn't we all love to have a "secret keeper" we can tell all our secrets to? Ms. Coombs' storytelling captures the attention of all who read. A must buy!!
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By Ulyyf on June 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a sweet story about a woman who magically keeps the secrets for the town nearby, turning them into symbolic objects.

Of course, the people gradually become wary of this woman who knows so much about them, and during the winter do not visit at all while she falls badly ill inside her own cottage.

Touchingly, the cure for her disease is to share with her (and everybody else) good secrets, which turn into butterflies and rainbows.

This story is, apparently, on a 4th grade reading level, so it's probably appropriate for the young child who reads well above their grade.
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Format: Hardcover
From young to old, with secrets as innocent as disliking a babysitter to the shame of supreme selfishness, everyone in Maldinga unloads on the secret keeper, Kalli - everyone but the the potter's son, whose secret is the greatest of all. In The Secret Keeper, Kate Coombs uses beautiful language and vivid imagery to weave this tale about the power of secrets. Anyone who likes traditional folk tales, who appreciates rich writing, or who has ever had a secret, will love The Secret Keeper.

I loved it so much, I bought several copies, which I will proudly share as gifts!
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