Kassy O’Roarke, Cub Reporter
by Kelly Oliver
Beaver’s Pond Press

"My heart is racing. I hide in the shadows and wait to confront the evil Agent Killjoy. If he knows about Apollo, we’re sunk."

Kassy O’Roarke has a one of a kind life for a middle school student. With her parents recently separated, her brother claiming he can communicate with animals, and living on a part-time petting zoo, her circumstances are anything but normal. Kassy’s ambition in life is to be a reporter, detective, or spy—something where attention to detail and a keen mind will make a big difference. Outshined on the school paper by a perky cheerleader and part-time nemesis, Kassy is desperate for a big scoop that she can report on, even if it’s a serious crime. Kassy should have been careful what she wished for, though, as a cougar cub goes missing shortly before her brother’s birthday party. If Animal Control finds out, they’re liable to shut down the petting zoo.

At great risk to her personal safety and her social freedom, Kassy and her brother Crispy decide to investigate without involving adults. When Kassy’s dad left, her mother had a nervous breakdown, and Kassy’s trying to avoid a repeat of that should they lose the zoo. Animal Control is no help because of an ornery agent by the name of Pinkerton Killjoy who wants to see their business shut down for good. Following the clues left behind point to a kidnapper, but who would steal a cougar and why? Kassy’s nose for the evidence leads her into a number of situations that put her at risk and land her in hot water with her baffled parents who aren’t used to this kind of behavior from their bookish daughter. If it means saving the family and becoming a star reporter, however, Kassy’s determined to crack the case.

Everyone, but especially young readers, will find it hard not to fall in love with Kassy in her debut adventure. From her unique exasperated exclamations to the realism of her emotions in trying situations, a new literary role model in the style of Nancy Drew will find her way into the hearts of her audience. This story offers lots of morals and important messages for readers, especially those with turbulence at home or those dealing with bullying and isolation in school. The key element here, however, is that these morals are not blatant in their delivery and beating the reader over the head in the style of an adult telling children how they should act. Though certainly from an older author’s pen, Kassy’s experiences carry validity and an adolescent realism to them.

There’s even an element of interactivity to the story, as the cougar thief leaves riddles for Kassy to solve in the form of a scavenger hunt. Readers can try to figure out the answer on their own before Kassy does or before progressing in the story, giving them a sense of ownership in the mystery. Sharp, well-composed illustrations bring moments of danger and interactions with Killjoy to life. You don’t have to be an animal expert or an aspiring detective to feel a kinship with Kassy as she develops her self-confidence and learns about the person that she wants to be as she grows older. Above all other elements, this is a purely enjoyable adventure filled with memorable characters, an endearing protagonist, and a lot of heart. Any reader will find much to enjoy here as well as a foundation for many books to come.

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