This solid middle-grade book shines with wisdom and compassion.

A young girl and her father, both white, move into a run-down mansion that is reputed to be haunted.

When almost-11-year-old Trina Maxwell’s father takes a job to restore a decrepit Queen Anne mansion known as Goldenrod on the outskirts of New Royal, Iowa (population 397), Trina isn’t thrilled. It’s another move in a lifetime of moves since her mother left nearly eight years ago, and besides, the house is spooky. Things don't get better when Trina enters the fifth grade at the new school, since her classmates have known one another since kindergarten and don’t seem to welcome a newcomer—especially one that lives at Goldenrod. When Trina discovers an old dollhouse and a surprising doll in the mansion’s turret room, she begins to research the first occupants of the house, which include a little girl, Annie, the original owner of the doll. In a pitch-perfect, third-person narration, Trina discovers why the townspeople fear Goldenrod, even as her own fears subside when she realizes the house is trying to tell her something. O’Reilly’s multilayered story is superbly presented. Loss, acceptance, coming together to accomplish goals, facing fears, and overcoming rejection are all bathed in the golden light that is the richness of living.

This solid middle-grade book shines with wisdom and compassion. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5124-0135-6

Page Count: 376

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016


An extraordinary, timely, must-read debut about love, family, friendship, and justice.

After receiving a letter from her incarcerated father, whom she’s never met, 12-year-old Zoe sets out to prove his innocence.

It’s the summer before seventh grade, and aspiring pastry chef Zoe sets her sights on perfecting her baking skills to audition as a contestant on Food Network’s Kids Bake Challenge. One day, she receives a letter from her father, Marcus, who was sent to prison for murder right before Zoe was born. She’s never met Marcus, and her mother wants her to have nothing to do with him. So Zoe keeps the letter a secret and begins corresponding with Marcus on a regular basis. He shares his favorite songs and encourages Zoe’s baking-competition dreams. When Marcus proclaims his innocence, Zoe is shocked: How could someone innocent end up in prison? With the help of her grandmother and her friend Trevor, Zoe begins to learn about systemic racism and how Black people like her and Marcus are more likely to be wrongfully convicted of murder than White people. Zoe’s relationship with Marcus is at the center of the novel, but her relationships with her mother, stepfather, grandmother, and Trevor are also richly conveyed. This powerful debut packs both depth and sweetness, tackling a tough topic in a sensitive, compelling way.

An extraordinary, timely, must-read debut about love, family, friendship, and justice. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-287585-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019


Offers a hauntingly truthful view of secrets and strength.

A tale of survival, friendship, and the strength that comes from overcoming fears.

Middle schooler Jac is dealing with the fallout of a real-life nightmare: childhood cancer. But it’s not just the fear of recurrence that she has to handle, but the reality of surviving and carrying the burden of her mom’s constant worry. When Jac discovers a large house that wasn’t there before looming at the end of a street in her suburban New Jersey neighborhood, she worries it’s a hallucination, which could mean a recurrence of her illness. But after her best friend, a boy named Hazel, sees the house too, her sense of adventure takes over. Provoked by a couple of bullies who dare them to enter and then follow them inside, Jac and Hazel explore the house and are met with surprises—like a key with Jac’s likeness on it—that suggest her connection to this strange and terrifying place is personal. Before long, the kids realize they are trapped inside. Shocks follow with every new door they open as they search for an exit and discover ever increasing frights. Delightfully nightmarish visions chase Jac, offering the feel of a thrilling game with twisted and terrifying imagery, as she navigates the house, seeking to understand her connection to this unusual place in this emotionally resonant story. Characters seem to default to White.

Offers a hauntingly truthful view of secrets and strength. (Paranormal. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-313657-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2022

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