The Secret-keeper

The Secret-keeper

by Kate Coombs, Heather M. Solomon

In the village of Maldinga, anyone troubled by a secret knows just where to take it — by following the winding path through the woods to Kalli's cottage. Tailors and farmers, marriage-makers and bakers — almost everyone comes to see Kalli, for she is the village secret-keeper, and over the years she has stored hundreds of secrets. But one long winter,


In the village of Maldinga, anyone troubled by a secret knows just where to take it — by following the winding path through the woods to Kalli's cottage. Tailors and farmers, marriage-makers and bakers — almost everyone comes to see Kalli, for she is the village secret-keeper, and over the years she has stored hundreds of secrets. But one long winter, Kalli falls ill, and the weight of the hidden secrets begins to catch up with her. Spring brings the curious villagers, who wonder what ails their secret-keeper. The time has come for them to help Kalli and for her to learn some unexpected secrets. Is it possible not all secrets are sad? And could someone have a secret that's just for Kalli?

An original fairy tale as beautifully illustrated as it is told, The Secret-Keeper is a book to share with everyone.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In an intriguing premise from newcomer Coombs, Kalli is the village's secret-keeper. "I sell loaves weighing less than full measure," the village baker confesses to Kalli. "I've made a bad match," the marriage-maker confides. In Kalli's magic hands, the secrets turn into tiny objects, rocks and charms, which she stores in hundreds of drawers that line the walls of her thatched hut. The villagers aren't evil-they just need to lighten their loads. At last, though, their cumulative burden makes Kalli ill, and the villagers at her bedside discover that she needs to hear some good secrets, too. "I'm going to be a painter when I grow up," says a boy, and his secret turns into a blue butterfly. The gentle potter's son has a secret, too: "`I love the secret-keeper," he confesses, causing joy and merriment in the village. Solomon's (Clever Beatrice) gouaches conjure up a classic fairy-tale setting, with half-timbered buildings and craftsmen sporting blouses and smocks. Yet she also introduces post-modern elements in the quietest, most judicious places; readers can detect scanned digital images of woodgrain and flower petals beneath the forest-colored gouache. In the same way, Coombs introduces 21st-century self-reflection into her otherwise traditional tale. Her characters do not need to be punished in order to reform-no asses' ears or red-hot shoes for them. Just the knowledge that their misdeeds have made a fellow creature suffer is enough to inspire an antidote. Ages 4-8. (June) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Kalli was the secret-keeper of Maldinga. Her cottage walls were lined with small drawers for the emblems of the secrets she gathered. When the baker confessed that he cheated his customers, his secret became a gray rock to be placed in one of the boxes. As the villagers shared all their dark vices with Kalli, they went away feeling lighter and freer. During the cold winter months, Kalli began to shiver and shake. She took to her bed as the weight of all those dim, dark secrets burdened her soul. One morning a young girl came to Kalli's cottage and discovered her illness. The word spread and all of the villagers came quickly. Nothing seemed to cheer her. Then the blacksmith suggested that they each share some good secrets. A young boy told Kalli about his dream to become a painter. This secret became a blue butterfly. Other joyful secrets followed and Kalli's magic turned them into a meadowlark, a rainbow, a purple dragonfly, a green frog, and a robin's egg. The morning was filled with laughter and springtime. Then Taln, the potter's son, revealed the best secret of all. After her marriage, Kalli continued to gather people's sorrowful secrets, but she no longer suffered from depression. The villagers proclaimed that one day every spring would be devoted to sharing the happiest of secrets. Charming paintings in muted watercolor tones appear in various sizes throughout the book, complimenting the subtle storytelling style. A gentle book to share with young children. 2006, Atheneum/Simon & Schuster, Ages 4 to 8.
—Phyllis Kennemer, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 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 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Daily the people of the village come through the woods to Kalli's house to tell their guilty secrets, which she hides away in the hundreds of wooden drawers that line the walls of her cottage, like apothecary cases or library catalog cabinets. Only one person, Taln, the potter, does not come to visit. As fall turns to winter, the secrets begin to weigh heavily on Kalli, and she becomes ill. When a young girl discovers her, the villagers attempt a cure by sharing some happy secrets. After a child tells his secret, a blue butterfly flies from Kalli's hands. As the villagers share good secrets with Kalli and with each other, Kalli recovers and spring returns. Then Taln whispers his secret: "I love the secret-keeper." Solomon's lovely watercolors, framed with jewel-toned borders, varied in size, shape and placement on heavy creamy paper, add fascinating details and emotional depth to this gentle jewel of a tale that will prompt discussion on the sharing of secrets, good and bad. (Picture book. 5-8)

Product Details

Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
10.00(w) x 11.00(h) x 0.40(d)
AD870L (what's this?)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Kate Coombs is the author of several books for children including The Secret Keeper. She has taught every grade from kindergarten through college, most recently working with homebound inner-city children. She lives in Bountiful, Utah, where she shares her home with hundreds of much-loved books. You can visit her online at

Heather M. Solomon was named a Publishers Weekly Flying Start for Clever Beatrice, winner of the Charlotte Zolotow Award. She is also the illustrator of Clever Beatrice and the Best Little Pony by Margaret Willey and If I Were a Lion by Sarah Weeks. She lives in New Mexico with her husband, daughter, and son, who especially love to share joyous secrets.

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