Member Reviews

A.Y. Chan's The Legendary Mo Seto is an action-packed adventure with an engaging story starring a fierce main character.

Mo Seto has been training in taekwondo for as long as she can remember. And for as long as she can remember, she's been great at it. Sure, she has to work super hard. But she sees her hard work pay off. Until her main enemy, Dax, has a growth spurt. And Mo? Mo stays four foot six (and a half!). When the chance to star in a movie alongside her all-time favorite martial artist/actor arises, Mo knows she has to audition. Even if it means sneaking off to auditions. She's sure she'll get the part...and when she learns she's up against her old enemy, Dax, she's even more determined. But will her efforts to get the part, and connect with her recently distant dad, push her away from her best friend?

I devoured this book. Mo is such a relatable character, even when she makes not the best choices. I adored how spunky and fierce she is, even while bemoaning her size. As a fellow shorty, I was rooting for her so hard. Watching her learn to embrace her size, instead of resent it, was healing for my own inner short kid (and, ahem, as a still-short adult!).

This book was action-packed, keeping me hooked from the first page. I wanted the same answers Mo did: why was her dad being so weird? What was up with that mysterious book in the basement? Why are both of her parents being so cagey about her Dad's family history? The action scenes are written with such energy. The audition scenes are cinematic, with heart and humor offering balance to Mo's embarrassing moments.

Mo's growth expands beyond her physical abilities-- as she learns about her family, she begins to understand why her mom wants her to learn Chinese and starts to become curious about who her parents are as people outside their roles as mom and dad. Her emotional growth is tender without ever being saccharine or unrealistic.

I adored the characters in this book. From Mo and her immediate family to her best friend, Nacho, and his family, both primary and secondary characters are well developed and feel real. Even the not so easily loved characters, such as her enemy Dax, the movie director (hilariously referred to as The Beard by narrator Mo), and the movie's martial arts choreographer are all well developed and believable characters. As a result, Mo, her world, and the people in it feel real.

The conclusion leads me to believe there is a chance this could be the first book in a series. I, for one, would love to see more of Mo, her endearing friends and family, and their adventures.

This middle grade novel is perfect for fans of action packed books, martial arts, and anyone who has ever felt different because of their size.

Thank you to the author, NetGalley, and Simon & Schuster for providing a copy of the book such that I could share my honest opinion.

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Modesty, or Mo, has had enough of being small. It’s the reason why she always comes in second in her Taekwondo tournaments and it’s why her mother wants her to do ballet or something else instead. But after her most recent tournament loss, Mo’s dad is suddenly distant, literally disappearing and not even texting her every day! Mo knows she must have disappointed him somehow, and she’s determined to prove to him that she can still be fierce. When she hears about an audition to be in a movie with her and her dad’s favorite movie star, Mo realizes that this is her chance! Unfortunately, she has to be a little taller to audition, but for the first time, Mo isn’t going to let a little thing like height stop her.

I received an advanced reading copy of The Legendary Mo Seto in exchange for an honest review.

The Legendary Mo Seto is a middle grade novel by A.Y. Chan. When Chan reached out to me about her book, I got really excited. I hadn’t heard about The Legendary Mo Seto before, but when I read the summary I knew this was right up my alley! After all, this is a story about a kickass small protagonist who does martial arts! And while it’s been years since I’ve done any martial arts, I miss doing them, and I knew that this book would be so fun. And it didn’t disappoint!

Mo is a great protagonist to be following. She’s smaller than her other classmates, and this is something that really weighs on her, but she’s so determined not to let it stop her. I loved reading this from her perspective, and I really connected with her strength and her stubbornness. I think any kid who picks this up, or even any adult, will also be able to connect with her. After all, even if not all of us were small as kids, we’ve all had that feeling of wanting to be like someone else, and of not being enough. Hopefully the experiences Mo goes through, though, help every reader reach more acceptance with who they are and their own strengths, even if they’re different strengths than those other people have.

And Mo goes through a LOT of experiences in this book! First, she has to make her way through auditions and casting, all while making sure she doesn’t get caught, while also dealing with the fact that her dad is AWOL, which is very unlike him. Add to that the fact that she’s found a mysterious book about a legendary form of martial arts, and that someone seems intent on shutting down the movie production, and you’ve got an incredibly fast-paced novel! The book was so fun, and I never stopped rooting for Mo. I read this very quickly, and it was such a fun and quick read, and I’m sure it would be very accessible to a lot of kids.

The Legendary Mo Seto was such a good read, and it’s one I would easily recommend to all lovers of middle grade, especially those who love martial arts, movies about martial arts, or who have felt insecure about themselves. So, basically everyone! Anyone who reads this is sure to find something they connect with, will be carried off on Mo’s exciting adventure, and may or may not find themselves practicing a few cool kicks and punches at home.

The Legendary Mo Seto is out now. You can order your copy from Aladdin, or from any of your local or online bookstores!

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In a Nutshell: A power-packed adventurous ride for middle-graders. Loved the characters, the martial arts, and the focus on Chinese culture. An excellent OwnVoices debut. Much recommended!

Plot Preview:
Modesty Seto, aka Mo, is a highly competitive twelve-year-old taekwondo champ who always seeks the gold medal. Her mother isn’t happy with her passion for martial arts, but her dad is her biggest supporter. Lately though, her dad seems to have other priorities, and this hampers Mo’s confidence, as does her losing streak against her archnemesis Dax, who has grown much bigger than her. Oh, why does she have to be so petite?
When Mo hears of a chance to audition for the latest movie of Cody Kwok, her favourite actor and a mind-blowing martial artist, she is willing to do whatever it takes to star in the movie, even if it means going against some explicit instructions. Her plan is aided by a mysterious book, though it soon becomes clear that the book comes with its share of dangers as well.
The story comes to us in Mo’s first person perspective.


Bookish Yays:
👊🏼 Mo’s character, to a great extent, is perfect for a MG work. She is determined, courageous, loyal, and spunky. A good protagonist for a middle-grade work, except for one thing. (This is clarified in the next section.)
👊🏼 Mo’s best friend “Nacho” is also a fabulous character, as are his funky t-shirt slogans. Loved the banter and the mutual support between the two friends.
👊🏼 Mo is of Chinese origin, and this is utilised well in the plot without resorting to typical stereotypes. The information about Chinese handwriting, martial arts, and even the legendary tale of the three sisters is excellently presented. Always love a good OwnVoices work!
👊🏼 Love the focus on Mo’s insecurity about being short. MG adventures are usually filled with protagonists who are tall for their age, so it was a delight to stumble upon a story where the main character is upset about her shortness, does her best to become ‘taller”, and finally learns to accept her height and see the positives of it.
👊🏼 The storyline is so relatable, despite having so many extraordinary elements. All kids will relate to being die-hard fans of larger-than-life movie stars or wanting to star in a movie. Love how the book highlights the reality behind the cameras.
👊🏼 The story is nicely paced and never slackens. Despite a multitude of subplots, it is easy to keep track of everything and the author brings all arcs neatly to a close by the end.
👊🏼 The plot uses diversity without making it seem forced in. The characters come from varied ethnic backgrounds, but the book never stresses on their cultural heritage, and treats them like humans than as representatives of their roots: the best approach to true inclusivity.
👊🏼 The plot regularly refers to Cody Kwok’s movie titles and provides a brief one-line description about them in brackets. These are hilarious!
👊🏼 It’s great to see martial arts play a central role. Not that I was ever into martial arts, but reading about the various moves and rules was thrilling. The author is a black belt in Taekwondo and also trained in four other martial arts, and her knowledge and experience come out clearly through her words.
👊🏼 A separate yay for having a female protagonist with not just an interest in but also a talent for taekwondo! Go girl power!
👊🏼 The book spans various genres: family, mystery, drama, adventure, action thriller, and even Chinese lore, but it doesn’t feel over the top as the themes are limited to the necessary few. No ‘kitchen sink syndrome.’
👊🏼 A couple of scenes take digs at silly character actions in movies – enjoyed these little add-ons! Avid readers will notice that the same flaws are common in contemporary adult thriller novels as well. I couldn’t help but laugh at the comment about the phone!
👊🏼 Appreciate the book’s message about accepting yourself and your body instead of always striving to be something you are not and cannot be. As they say, great things come in small packages, and Mo is one heck of a small package, though it takes her long to realise this truth.
👊🏼 The cover is stunningly kick-ass! So perfect for the story!

Bookish Nays: (These points might not be ‘nays’ to every reader.)
🏮 As a middle grader, I doubt I wouldn’t have liked anything about this book. But as a parent, I do have some reservations about how Mo constantly goes against her parents’ instructions, even lying, forging, and cheating to get her way. I might have let this go if Mo received some sort of comeuppance for her misdemeanours, but she gets away with everything with barely a harsh word. Of course, kids won’t be bothered by all this, but I feel it sets the wrong example.
🏮 There are many exaggerations in the story. While this is a fairly common scenario in kids’ books, some of the situations are really tough to digest, like adding 5 inches of height by stuffing your shoes and walking/jumping/running/kicking in them without any pain whatsoever – impossible!
🏮 I never like MG books to talk about crushes and tingly feelings and the like. Granted, it is done at a “barely there” level in this book, with words like ‘crush’ or ‘love’ not even mentioned. But the various references to Mo feeling something funny and/or tingly when she begins to see a certain someone with fresh eyes didn’t make me happy. These weren’t needed in the plot and could have been easily left out.

All in all, my reservations are relatively minor. I mostly enjoyed this fun book that flows almost like a movie with its high-octane dialogues and thrilling action scenes. (In fact, it would make a great movie!) At no point does this seem like a debut work. I am not sure if the author intends a sequel to the story, but if she does, I am certainly on board.

Definitely recommended to all middle-graders, as long as they realise that Mo needs to be emulated for all her positive traits but not in her negative tendencies. 😉

4.25 stars.

My thanks to the author, Simon and Schuster Children's Publishing, Aladdin, and NetGalley for the DRC of “The Legendary Mo Seto”. This review is voluntary and contains my honest opinion about the book.

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It was fine. Not a huge favorite. Not sure what it was exactly it may have been my mood idk. I saw what was coming for the most part but it was well written and I think it will be a hit with upper elementary kids. It looks like there will be more books to come, at least it ended with some loose ends so I assume so.

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In the blistering heat of summer, young Modesty Seto gives her all to become an expert Tae Kwon Do martial artist. But due to her diminutive size, Mo constantly finds challenges her peers do not face, as she constantly battles opponents much bigger and stronger than she is. Wracked with emotion after yet another failed battle, and her parents’ seeming disappointment in her skills, everything seems sideways for Mo. But everything changes when a chance to star in a movie alongside her favorite action hero, Cody Kwok, appears. With her best friend Nacho by her side, Mo attempts to tackle her feelings of failure and impress her parents by getting the part. However, there is much more to Mo’s family history than she ever could have realized, as the tiny 12-year-old finds herself drawn ever deeper into a web of mysteries and lies.
The Legendary Mo Seto by A.Y. Chan is nothing short of exceptional. I cannot remember the last time I had this much unbridled fun while reading a middle-grade novel. A cross between a Jackie Chan film, a Bollywood action movie, and a family-friendly flick, this is a real page-turner where the action never stops. The book is written in first-person present tense, which threw me at first. However, after reading a few pages, I found that the perspective works well, as I found myself fully immersed in Mo’s world. I liked it that Mo is a movie buff, and I loved how well martial arts are represented in the book.
Another high point is that the cast is incredibly diverse. Nacho, Mo’s best friend, is always there for her, and adorable little Sanjay reminded me of one of my younger family members. Mo’s mom is highly nuanced, and Cody Kwok’s dark secret was one of the best parts of the narrative. I was able to see some of the twists in the plot coming, while others completely surprised me, and the story itself is both highly intelligent and extremely entertaining.
The only issue I had with the story at all was that one of the characters went to some pretty extreme lengths to achieve their goal. While the character’s motivation made perfect sense, there were actual crimes committed and people injured, and the character faces absolutely no consequences in the wrap-up phase, which I found a bit odd. However, the rest of the story is just great, and I loved the Chinese culture that pervades this truly incredible tale of overcoming the odds. Though Mo faces many setbacks, she faces each new day with her incredible determination, proving Master Yoda’s statement that “size matters not”.
A thrilling tale of martial arts, the true nature of people, and accepting yourself for who you are, this exciting narrative is perfect for readers 12 and up who love action, adventure, and rooting for the underdog. This story contains violence, blood, dangerous situations, and danger/injury to minors. Great for readers who love cinematic narratives that pull you out of your world, this awesome story earns five out of five stars for its excellent storytelling, compelling plot, and incredible characters with exceptional depth.

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A young taekwondo artist must use an ancient book to save her dreams and her farther. Modesty "Mo" Seto is a twelve-year-old girl who dreams about becoming a taekwondo champion. Her mother disapproves and her father who was her number one supporter suddenly walks out her match with no explanation and disappears.... and thats when Mo discovers that her dad has been hiding family secrets. Mo also discovers that an opportunity to star in a movie with her idol, a legendary martial artist and movie star, Cody Kwok has come and she's going to do anything to prove to everyone including her dad that she was meant to be a martial artist. But with her taekwondo nemesis also competing for the role, a mysterious person trying to sabotage the movie, and her dad's disappearance as well as her ancestor's legacy... Mo is beginning to realize that her life is going to get much more complicated than she could ever imagine. This was a fun middle grade read about a girl who is just trying to pursue her hobbies and chase her dreams. Mo was a great protagonist and the journey she goes through was a fun one to read. She's dealing with so much, from wanting to get her parents to finally see her to realizing that sometimes your idols are not who you think they are. It's a fun read and I would absolutely recommend it!

Release Date: June 4,2024

Publication/Blog: Ash and Books (ash-and-books.tumblr.com)

*Thanks Netgalley and Simon and Schuster Children's Publishing | Aladdin for sending me an arc in exchange for an honest review*

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Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for letting me review this book. Mo wants to be the best taekwondo artist there is. When auditions open up for a new music vie staring her favorite actor, she knows she’s got to try out and land the role. She never gives up and learns along the way about herself, what friendship is all about and not everyone is who they seem to be.

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