Cape: Book 1 in The LEague of Secret Heroes

Starred review! ★

In her first series, Hannigan (The Detective’s Assistant, 2015) deposits readers into WWII-era Philadelphia, where they’ll encounter the women mathematicians known as the ENIAC Six, female superheroes from early comic books, and a real Nazi spy ring. Twelve-year-old Irish immigrant Josie O’Malley feels the pinch of wartime living, picking up shifts at a diner and caring for her younger siblings while her mother works and her father fights in the Pacific. She desperately wishes the superheroes from her beloved comics would help her troubled city, but little does she suspect that she’s about to become one herself. After responding to a newspaper ad calling for puzzlers (she’s an ace at math and pattern recognition), Josie is recruited with two other girls—African American Mae and Japanese American Akiko—into a secret organization. Incredibly, the girls manifest superpowers just as a supervillain begins terrorizing the city. Prejudice against girls and women and racism directed at Mae and Akiko provide a more serious side to the action-packed plot. Humorous touches emerge as Josie and her friends hone their new powers, and some cheesy one-liners give a wink to vintage comic books—as do illustrated comics spreads. Readers across genres will be enamored by this blend of history, mystery, and superpowered action. A thorough author’s note supplies historical context for the trio’s first adventure." — Booklist

From School Library Journal

"Hannigan soars with a rich new adventure series inspired by real women programmers from World War II. Philadelphia has not seen caped crusaders in years, yet seventh-grader Josie O’Malley loves reading comic books about female superheroes and solving math and word games. When she notices an ad in the paper seeking puzzle solvers to help crack ciphers, Josie knows that this is her dream job. She’ll do anything to help her family while her father is away fighting Germany’s Nazis. Josie is alarmed when she, Akiko, and Mae are all cut from the puzzler tryouts because they are girls. The girls join forces as caped crusaders themseves, with advanced powers and teamwork to foil a cloak-and-dagger evildoer and crack the clandestine code just in time to find superheroes who went missing in action. Mae, who is African American, and Akiko, who is Japanese- American, are nuanced characters whose experiences with racism accurately reflect the time period. Hannigan takes on history, prejudice, friendship, and bravery with aplomb. VERDICT Fans of fast-paced action adventures, computer science, and confident main characters will enjoy this series debut that is sure to fly off the shelves."

From Kirkus Reviews

"Superheroes, spies, puzzle solvers—or all three?

It’s World War II, and Zenobia, Black Cat, and the other superheroes vanished from the streets of Philadelphia a couple of years ago. Josie, a white Irish immigrant, is despairing, with a war on and her beloved heroes all missing. At least Josie can do her part for the war effort, since a call has gone out for puzzle-solving and mathematically inclined kids. Just when it looks like Josie won’t be able to help—are her excellent ciphering skills going to be ignored just because she’s a girl?—a mysterious woman solicits the help of Josie and two other puzzler girls: Akiko, a Japanese-American girl whose family is in an internment camp, and Mae, a black girl whose grandmother is a librarian, both also cipher- and comics-loving superhero fans. And somehow, when the three of them get together, they have powers! Like the heroes of their favorite comics, the girls whoosh through the skies, caped rescuers fighting Nazis. Along the way they meet and rescue the women who are the first computer programmers. Mae and Akiko encounter a smidgen of racism, although far, far milder than accuracy would call for; this is a superhero/puzzling/Nazi-thwarting tale, not historical fiction. With interwoven action sequences told in comics panels, the tale has the exciting pace of a superhero adventure.

Puzzles readers can solve are the icing on this cake. (historical note, further resources) (Historical fantasy. 9-11)"

a lady has the floor

Starred review! ★

“Lockwood is often overshadowed by her feminist sisters, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, but as this informative and delightful biography proves, she was in the forefront of the fight for women’s rights. Young Belva was fearless as a girl, and by age 14 was a teacher. But she soon learned that, as a female, she would make less than men. She was discouraged as a college student, disparaged at law school, and had to appeal to President Ulysses S. Grant to be presented with her degree. Women lawyers were prohibited from arguing before the Supreme Court until Lockwood forced the issue. Though she couldn’t vote, she ran for president as the National Equal Rights party candidate, and while she didn’t live long enough to see women get the national vote, she kept fighting into her eighties. Hannigan’s style is pithy, but packed with facts. Belva comes alive as a feisty activist, with a strong sense of self and an innate willingness to fight injustice, both for herself and her clients, who included widows, freed slaves, and civil war vets. The text is peppered with quotes from Lockwood, and repeats the refrain, “Bold, determined, strong.” Jay’s signature crackled artwork has a historical look, but also a childlike appeal that will bring the audience close. An excellent example of picture-book biography." — Booklist


Starred review! ★

"Belva Lockwood was a teacher, a lawyer (first woman to enter the bar of the U.S. Supreme Court), a suffragist, and a presidential candidate. This remarkable woman stands out for many reasons, including her two presidential campaigns in 1884 and 1888. Belva's awareness of women's issues came early. She became a teacher at 14 but found out that she was only paid half of a man's salary. Later, her father did not want her to attend college (even though she was 24, already a widow and a mother), and the college she attended did not want her to study what were traditionally men's subjects: "math, science and politics." Law school proved to be an even bigger challenge. After she was finally allowed to attend, she was denied a diploma upon graduation and had to demand it from President Ulysses S. Grant (also the president of the law school). She is also known for winning a major Supreme Court case on behalf of the Cherokee nation. This is an engaging introduction to a woman unknown to many, young and old, giving some insight into her adventurous personality. In one illustration, the white woman rides a penny-farthing bicycle (in her floor-length skirt), just like the male lawyers in Washington, D.C. Her quotes are integrated into the illustrations, executed in oils with a crackle varnish, with a look reminiscent of 19th-century folk art. Soft blues and browns predominate in the naïve paintings, lending to their antique appearance. An excellent, well-researched model of its genre, which will inspire children to do whatever they desire in life, no matter what immediate restrictions exist. (author's note, timeline, bibliography, source notes) (Picture book/biography. 8-11)” — Kirkus Reviews


Starred review! ★

Hannigan presents an invigorating account of the life of Belva Lockwood, taking readers from her childhood in Niagara County, N.Y., to her career as one of the first women lawyers in the U.S. to her 1884 run for president (“Are women not worth the same as men? Belva spent her whole life asking that question.”). Working in her distinctively crackled folk style, Jay depicts powerful moments of resistance and courage from Lockwood’s life—whether storming into a classroom or protesting before the Supreme Court. Endnotes provide a timeline of Lockwood’s life and beyond, highlighting significant events in the ongoing fight for women’s rights and concluding with Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential run. Ages 9–12. —Publishers Weekly

the detective's assistant
Starred review! ★

"After 11-year-old Nell Warne's family drops dead, one after another, she turns in desperation to her Aunt Kate. But Kate Warne isn't in the market for a long-lost niece—she believes Nell's father murdered her beloved husband, and besides, as the first female detective at Pinkerton's National Detective Agency, she's too busy working undercover to care for a child. Determined Nell has other ideas and soon, Kate has no choice but to let her do the odd detecting chore to pay for her keep. And she's awfully good at the job. Hannigan keeps a strong narrative hand on the several stories she has going on simultaneously: the mysteries surrounding the deaths of Nell's father and uncle; Nell's correspondence with her best friend, who traveled the Underground Railroad to safety in Canada; and several Pinkerton adventures that involve chicanery, American history, and lots of excitement. An author's note explains that Kate Warne was a real person who did many of the things described in the book, making this a great title for promoting women's history. But even if Kate were purely fictional, Nell—strong-willed yet scared, tough but needy—makes a solid heroine. The terrific cover will drawn em in." — Booklist, May 1, 2015

Starred review! ★ 

Thrust unceremoniously upon her only surviving relative in mid nineteenth-century Chicago, thirteen-year old Cornelia tries hard to prove her worthiness to Aunt Kitty, who carries a grudge against the girl because Cornelia’s father shot her husband, his own brother. Still, despite the tension between them, Kitty—based on the real-life Kate Warne, the first female detective—finds the girl’s quick thinking and keen observational skills helpful in solving crimes, and soon Kitty and Cornelia, now known as Nell, form an uneasy duo. Their tentative bond solidifies when Nell proves that her father’s shooting of his brother was an accident that occurred when the men were aiding in the efforts of the Underground Railroad, a revelation aided by Nell’s correspondence with her friend, Jemma, whose family escaped to Canada thanks to Nell’s father. Nell and Jemma reveal information through codes and clues that ring true to their age and give readers something to puzzle over, while Nell and Kitty’s detective work offers excitement and intrigue without an intense sense of fear or danger—a remarkable balance that keeps this novel accessible and captivating. Sprinkled with period details (often cleverly revealed through Nell’s voracious appetite for daily newspapers), this novel provides a rich but approachable historic context for the smart, admirable Nell and the steely Aunt Kitty, both well drawn here under Hannigan’s sure hand. Her extensive author’s note offers readers information about Kate Warne and the actual cases on which the book’s adventures are based, including the plot to kill Abraham Lincoln. With skilled writing that conveys the excitement of detective work, the appeal of history, and Nell’s authentic, good-humored personal growth, this is one for the ages. — The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, July/August 2015


Five star review! ★★★★★

"Parents need to know that The Detective's Assistant is a funny, history-packed novel from Kate Hannigan based on the true story of the first female detective in history, Kate Warne, and her imagined relationship with a long-lost niece, 11-year-old orphan Nell. Together they solve crimes as undercover female detectives as the country approaches Civil War. Though a sense of loss and death, alleged murder and thievery permeate the novel, it's a stunning, fast-paced yarn that champions smarts, problem-solving, women, and the importance of family. Great role models for girls." — See the full review at Common Sense Media. 


"Hannigan (Cupcake Cousins) makes skillful use of period details, bringing the novel’s threads together in a nail-biting conclusion. Nell is a fearless, no-nonsense heroine, and her dry-witted narration drives this rollicking historical escapade." — For the full review, go to Publisher's Weekly.


"Hannigan’s quick pace and Nell’s spunky voice successfully suspend readers’ disbelief, and the author manages to pack an amazing amount of historical tidbits in along the way."

"A rousing fictional account of the remarkable career of a pioneering woman."— Read the full review in Kirkus Reviews.


"Nell is an irrepressible character: spirited, thoughtful, and intuitive.  . . . Although there are plenty of madcap adventures, grief and the longing for a home are at the forefront of the story." 

"Recommend to readers who enjoy adventure, history, and stories featuring independent, strong-minded girls." — School Library Journal


"The Detective’s Assistant by Kate Hannigan is funny and touching while also shedding light on such historical happenings as the Underground Railroad, boarding house life, the tensions leading up to the Civil War, and Abraham Lincoln’s election and first inauguration. Nell is a wholly delightful character who can be both perceptive and clueless as to what’s going on around her. She likes to read newspapers, has to work hard at learning correct grammar, and thinks the fashions of the day are silly even if she does want to wear them. She’ll clomp her way to your heart while wearing her daddy’s boots and have you cheering for her every step of the way." — Read the full review at Mother Daughter Book Club.


cupcake cousins

". . . debut novelist Hannigan has assembled all the ingredients for an entertaining and gentle-natured family tale." 

"The ending is almost as sweet as the recipes that end several chapters." — Read the full review in Publisher's Weekly.


"Hannigan deftly portrays the angst Willow struggles with as she approaches the early-preteen years. With keen insight, she also explores Delia’s worries about her father’s job loss and concerns about her parents’ marriage."

"Hannigan’s lively tale celebrates family and friendship." — Read the full review in Kirkus Reviews.

Send an email to


contact Kate's agent,

Jennifer Mattson,

at Andrea Brown Literary 

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