Awards & Accolades

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An enjoyable, well-crafted mystery with humor, mild suspense, a lively heroine, and a timely freedom-of-the-press theme.

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

A sixth-grade gossip learns what it takes to be a serious reporter when she joins the staff of the student newspaper as bizarre events escalate at school.

In this debut middle-grade novel, Molly Warner lives for gossip, sharing every juicy story she hears with anyone who will listen. When her remarkably understanding principal redirects her energy by having her join the student paper, Molly finds herself on the trail of a mystery involving the theft of the school’s only basketball trophy as well as car break-ins, an eruption of weird rashes, and a cherry bomb explosion in the girls’ bathroom. Among the possible culprits: Coach Cooper and two notorious school bullies. After Molly teams up with a fellow reporter to cover and solve the case, a surprise arrest ensues. And Molly discovers that her nose for news has led her to practice what “she was born to do.” Readers won’t discover much adolescent angst in Kilday’s benign middle school setting, but they will find well-placed humor and colorful characters that include Molly and her peers; janitor Frank and his unexpected musical ambitions; a girl whose phobia about germs in the school bathroom is tested in a most unfortunate way; a wise grandpa with a penchant for non sequiturs; and a reclusive ex-teacher who left the profession under a cloud. The author, a former reporter, adds substance to his buoyant novel with serious and timely information about the role of a free press in a democratic society. As Molly investigates the enigmatic happenings at school, she learns about journalistic ethics, interview techniques, and the difference between opinion and reporting. In well-paced segments, she hears about plagiarism, the significance of Watergate, the dangers of fake news—and of self-serving accusations of fake news—the need to fact-check stories spread on social media, and the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution. “A free press that questions authority is what makes us a democracy,” asserts Molly’s journalism teacher. “It’s what separates our country from others who don’t have the freedoms that we enjoy.” Weighty stuff, yet Kilday skillfully weaves it all into his entertaining narrative as an organic part of the story.

An enjoyable, well-crafted mystery with humor, mild suspense, a lively heroine, and a timely freedom-of-the-press theme.

Pub Date: Jan. 25, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-78465-349-1

Page Count: 170

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2018


From the Once Upon a World series

A nice but not requisite purchase.

A retelling of the classic fairy tale in board-book format and with a Mexican setting.

Though simplified for a younger audience, the text still relates the well-known tale: mean-spirited stepmother, spoiled stepsisters, overworked Cinderella, fairy godmother, glass slipper, charming prince, and, of course, happily-ever-after. What gives this book its flavor is the artwork. Within its Mexican setting, the characters are olive-skinned and dark-haired. Cultural references abound, as when a messenger comes carrying a banner announcing a “FIESTA” in beautiful papel picado. Cinderella is the picture of beauty, with her hair up in ribbons and flowers and her typically Mexican many-layered white dress. The companion volume, Snow White, set in Japan and illustrated by Misa Saburi, follows the same format. The simplified text tells the story of the beautiful princess sent to the forest by her wicked stepmother to be “done away with,” the dwarves that take her in, and, eventually, the happily-ever-after ending. Here too, what gives the book its flavor is the artwork. The characters wear traditional clothing, and the dwarves’ house has the requisite shoji screens, tatami mats and cherry blossoms in the garden. The puzzling question is, why the board-book presentation? Though the text is simplified, it’s still beyond the board-book audience, and the illustrations deserve full-size books.

A nice but not requisite purchase. (Board book/fairy tale. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-7915-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Little Simon/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017


More gift book than storybook, this is a meaningful addition to nursery bookshelves

A young child explores the unlimited potential inherent in all humans.

“Have you ever wondered why you are here?” asks the second-person narration. There is no one like you. Maybe you’re here to make a difference with your uniqueness; maybe you will speak for those who can’t or use your gifts to shine a light into the darkness. The no-frills, unrhymed narrative encourages readers to follow their hearts and tap into their limitless potential to be anything and do anything. The precisely inked and colored artwork plays with perspective from the first double-page spread, in which the child contemplates a mountain (or maybe an iceberg) in their hands. Later, they stand on a ladder to place white spots on tall, red mushrooms. The oversized flora and fauna seem to symbolize the presumptively insurmountable, reinforcing the book’s message that anything is possible. This quiet read, with its sophisticated central question, encourages children to reach for their untapped potential while reminding them it won’t be easy—they will make messes and mistakes—but the magic within can help overcome falls and failures. It’s unlikely that members of the intended audience have begun to wonder about their life’s purpose, but this life-affirming mood piece has honorable intentions. The child, accompanied by an adorable piglet and sporting overalls and a bird-beaked cap made of leaves, presents white.

More gift book than storybook, this is a meaningful addition to nursery bookshelves . (Picture book. 2-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-946873-75-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: May 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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