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LIST PRICE $17.99

“Readers…will be enamored by this blend of history, mystery, and superpowered action.” —Booklist (starred review)
“Has the exciting pace of a superhero adventure.” —Kirkus Reviews

Hidden Figures meets Wonder Woman in this action-packed, comic-inspired adventure about a brilliant girl puzzler who discovers she’s part of a superhero team—the first in a new series!

Josie O’Malley does a lot to help out Mam after her father goes off to fight the Nazis, but she wishes she could do more—like all those caped heroes who now seem to have disappeared. If Josie can’t fly and control weather like her idol, Zenobia, maybe she can put her math smarts to use cracking puzzles for the government.

After an official tosses out her puzzler test because she’s a girl, it soon becomes clear that an even more top-secret agency has its eye on Josie, along with two other applicants: Akiko and Mae. The trio bonds over their shared love of female superhero celebrities, from Hauntima to Zenobia to Hopscotch. But during one extraordinary afternoon, they find themselves transformed into the newest (and youngest!) superheroes in town. As the girls’ abilities slowly begin to emerge, they learn that their skills will be crucial in thwarting a shapeshifting henchman of Hitler, and, just maybe, in solving an even larger mystery about the superheroes who’ve recently gone missing.

Inspired by remarkable real-life women from World War II—the human computers and earliest programmers called “the ENIAC Six”—this pulse-pounding adventure features bold action and brave thinking, with forty-eight pages of comic book style graphic panels throughout the book. Readers will want to don their own capes for an adventure, and realize they have the power to be a superhero, too!

A Reading Group Guide to

Cape and Mask

By Kate Hannigan

About the Books

Josie, Mae, and Akiko, three seemingly ordinary girls who love to solve puzzles, join forces to fight powerful enemies during World War II. When their skill at code-cracking brings them together, the girls realize that they have superpowers—from flying to shape-shifting to calling up storms. Because the old superheroes have disappeared, the girls, dubbed the Infinity Trinity, take on villains in perilous fights across the country. They deal with loss, fear, racial bias, and sexism. At the same time, they discover that they’re stronger when they draw on their new friendship and work as a team as they battle sinister enemies with superpowers of their own.

Discussion Questions

1. Each member of the Infinity Trinity has her own strengths and personality. Describe Josie, her background, and her family. What strengths does she bring to the trio besides her superpowers? Why do you think she is the narrator?

2. Describe the scene where the girls first meet one another. Why do they end up spending time together? Akiko has a strong personality and some distinctive habits. Talk about what she’s like. Where is she from, and why is she in Philadelphia? What do you learn about her family, especially in Mask?

3. Mae is visiting Philadelphia from Chicago. What is she doing in Philadelphia? What does her grandmother do?

4. Josie admires Mae’s manners. Give examples of Mae and her social interactions. What other aspects of her personality come through? What does she bring to the trio?

5. Each of the three girls ends up with different superpowers. Describe each of their superpowers, when the superpower appears, and how it helps in specific fights against evil. Why do you think the girls must voice their good intentions to make the superpowers kick in?

6. Near the end of Cape, Josie tells a reporter about the Infinity Trinity, saying, “‘They might look different, but they’re a trio, you know. Three apart, one together.’” Discuss her comments, and explain how the three girls complement one another in terms of personality and superpowers. Give examples from the book to support your conclusions.

7. Think about the world these girls live in, and intentions or motivations for behaviors. What dangers do the girls face? Who are they protecting? What motivates them to risk their lives to defeat villains? What role does the war play in their willingness to face danger?

8. Josie, who’s originally from Ireland, is white. Akiko is Japanese-American, and Mae is African-American. Give examples of prejudices that Akiko and Mae have to deal with. Describe times that Josie is surprised by the racial bias she sees. How do the girls react to or handle these situations?

9. The treatment of Japanese-Americans during World War II is portrayed in Mask. Describe what happened to Akiko’s family, and why they are in an internment camp. What did you learn that most surprises you? What is the internment camp like? What did they lose before they were sent there?

10. Why do you think Akiko’s brother, Tommy, enlisted? What is he doing in the war? How does Akiko feel about this?

11. Who is Mrs. B, and when does she first appear in the girls’ lives? To what extent does she guide them, and when does she leave decisions up to them? What do they realize about her background and that of her dog, Astra? Who is Mrs. B’s sister?

12. When do the girls observe sexism toward themselves and others? Discuss Mrs. B’s observation that, “‘History for too long has taught that females are delicate flowers, unable to take the heat, incapable of feats of strength and daring.’” Which females in Cape or Mask prove this idea wrong, and how? Explain your answers using examples from the books.

13. Josie’s friend Harry believes in her capabilities, but advises her, “‘Don’t outrage an opponent, outsmart them.’” Name times that Josie, Akiko, and Mae outsmart their opponents. What can you learn from these experiences? When do the girls combine using their brains with using their superpowers?

14. Name some of the superheroes that the girls talk about. Who do the girls admire most? What powers do those superheroes have? What has happened to the superheroes? Which ones still appear, and in what form? How do they help?

15. Why does secrecy play such a large role in both books? What are some secrets that the girls are keeping from their families, and why? What secret does Josie’s cousin, Kay, have? How about Josie’s friend Harry and Akiko’s mother? What kind of confusion and problems do the secrets cause?

16. In Cape, Josie also has a painful secret about her father. Why do you think she doesn’t talk about it? When does she finally tell her new friends? Discuss Josie’s mother and how she’s coping with the loss of her husband. What are her contributions to the war effort, as well as to her own family?

17. Who is the main enemy in Cape? Who are his allies, and what powers does he have? What are his plans? How do the girls and their friends thwart his goals? Describe the importance of both strategy and quick thinking using examples from the book.

18. Describe the enemy that the girls fight in Mask. When do they first encounter him? What are his powers, and what does he plan to do? Who are his allies? Describe how the girls figure out his plans, and how they fight him. What makes a clown an effective villain?

19. How do the crowds react when seeing the Infinity Trinity in action? How do reporters respond, and how do their newspapers cover the trio’s deeds? What do you think it might feel like for the girls to have to hide their identities instead of taking credit for their courage and actions? Why do the girls feel they have to keep this secret? How would you react if you were in their shoes?

20. Near the end of Cape, Mrs. B tells the girls, “‘Not all superheroes wear capes. And their superpowers might not be so easy to detect at first. But what they do is nonetheless extraordinary.’” Who is she referring to? What characters in the novels help with the war effort in quieter ways than the girls do?

21. Discuss the importance of setting in these two stories. What do Philadelphia and San Francisco have in common that attracts the villains? What landmarks or special features in each city figure into the plot?

22. Talk about the role of illustrations in the novels. Why do you think the book includes pictures? What do they add in terms of plot, character, and emotion? How do they relate to the chapters that follow them?

Extension Activities

Crack the Code

Review some of the ciphers in the novels that convey messages that the girls must figure out. Then write a sentence or two about one of the novels or characters. Choose a cipher from the book and convert your sentences into a secret message. Trade messages with a classmate, and try to figure out their cipher and message.

Say It in Pictures

Take an exciting scene from one of the two novels, and illustrate it in a comic book format. Convert the dialogue in the scene into speech balloons, and characters’ thoughts into thought bubbles. Use text boxes to add narration, and so on. Draw the pictures using your own style or modeled after those in the novels. Did you notice anything new or different when using this method to interpret a scene? How did it make you feel about the characters and their experiences?

Words of Wisdom

Josie remembers advice at important moments, including Kay’s suggestion to tackle problems “‘Stitch by stitch,’” and Mam’s saying, “‘When the world needs a hero, that’s what you become.’” Josie also recalls that, “Every problem has a solution.” Choose one of these sayings or another piece of advice given to Josie, and write an essay about its role in the novels and its application to life in general.

Superhero Profile

Participate in a class discussion about superheroes and their characteristics. Make a group list of important information to include in a superhero’s profile, such as their superpowers, weaknesses, origin story, appearance, and so on. Then create your own original superhero and compile a colorful profile to post in your classroom.

Take a Tour

Philadelphia and San Francisco provide vivid settings for Cape and Mask. Choose one of these cities and create a travel brochure, using facts from the novels and adding information from your own knowledge or research. Describe major landmarks like the Liberty Bell and the Golden Gate Bridge. Fold a paper in half or thirds to form the brochure, and decorate it with pictures, borders, and fancy lettering.

The World at War

World War II is the backdrop for Cape and Mask, and many aspects of the war are mentioned in these two stories. Choose a topic to research from the list below, or another related topic such as those included in the author’s notes. Use print and digital resources to find out more about your topic, and prepare a multimedia presentation to share with the class.

Pearl Harbor

War in the Pacific

442nd Regimental Combat Team

African Americans in the military

Balloon bombs

Rosie the Riveter/women at work

Shipbuilding

ENIAC

Japanese-American internment camps

Bias against Germans in the US

Spying in WWII

Enigma Code or other ciphers/codes

French Resistance

Duquesne Spy Ring

Lexile level, Cape: Lexile ® 760L

F&P Level, Cape: Fountas & Pinnell™ W

Guide written by Kathleen Odean.

This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes. For more Simon & Schuster guides and classroom materials, please visit simonandschuster.net or simonandschuster.net/thebookpantry.

The Lexile reading level has been certified by the Lexile developer, MetaMetrics®.

These books have been officially leveled by using the F&P Text Level Gradient™ Leveling System.
Photograph © Warling Studios/Picture Day

Kate Hannigan is a noted author with a special passion for stories that empower girls and women. Her picture book biography, A Lady Has the Floor, received four starred reviews and was named a Junior Library Guild Selection. In addition to the 2016 Golden Kite Award for Middle Grade Fiction, The Detective’s Assistant also received two starred reviews and was a Booklist Editor’s Choice, among many other accolades. Hannigan recently presented at NCTE on “Our Mighty Girls,” about girl power in middle grade fiction, and was a judge for 2018’s Golden Kite Awards. Between her active presence on social media (@KateChicago), her work as founder of the Hyde Park/South Side Chicago chapter of SCBWI, and as a busy conference speaker, Kate is an involved, vocal, and respected member of the kid lit community. Visit her online at KateHannigan.com.

"Part historical fiction chapter book, part superhero graphic novel, this audio production handles transitions perfectly via its two narrators. In WWII Philadelphia, seventh grader Josie O'Malley wishes her favorite female superheroes would protect the world from evil. At a tryout for code crackers, she meets two fellow superhero fans, Mae and Akiko. The three girls suddenly develop their own remarkable superhero powers and join the League of Secret Heroes to foil a villain. Narrator Jesse Vilinsky brings honest emotion to the girls' story; her voice shudders and pulses with frustration at the racism, sexism, and bullying the girls face. Interspersed is Jonathan Davis's narration, which believably lifts listeners out of the real-world narrative, dropping them into the superhero action sequences."

– AudioFile Magazine

  • Kansas NEA Reading Circle List Junior Title
  • Oklahoma Book Award
  • Illinois Reads List

More books from this reader: Jesse Vilinsky