Molly's Fire

Book review by
Cindy Kane, Common Sense Media
Molly's Fire Book Poster Image
A quirky story with hidden riches.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

A part-Asian child is repeatedly taunted as "the Jap."


Infrequent, mild.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that a half-Asian girl is taunted by classmates as "the Jap" in this story set in 1944. The protagonist is told her pilot father was shot down and killed, but she believes he is still alive.

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What's the story?

It's August 1944 in the small town of Keenan, Maine, when Molly Fowler's mother receives a telegram saying that her husband, a pilot, has been shot down over Holland and is presumed dead. Molly fiercely refuses to believe her father is dead and begins looking everywhere for signs that he is alive.

While reconstructing a broken stained glass window as a gift to her father, she befriends the town's rich kid, Peter Birmingham. A feeling of kinship with an eccentric widow, Mrs. Larkin, helps Molly form a friendship with Jane, Mrs. Larkin's half-Asian granddaughter, whom classmates torment as \"Jane the Jap.\"

Peter and Jane support Molly's campaign to prove that her father is alive, which propels them into a dangerous and sobering adventure at the local POW camp. But even her strange and loyal vigil can't prepare Molly for the spine-tingling truth about her father.

Is it any good?

The first half of this book could lead readers to think that Molly Fowler is one weird girl. Compelled to prove that her father is alive, she does strange things, such as burying her funeral dress at his empty gravesite. The pace is slow as Janet Carey maneuvers the relationships into place, but the second half makes up for these flaws.

Carey is a talented writer who could have used a firmer editorial hand. Tenses are mixed, descriptive images pop up like verbal tics, and the facts get confused. One 12-year-old reader found the writing too cold: "She tries to make it sad, but it's just not." But there are enough exciting discoveries here to make Carey a writer to watch.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the book's setting. Find examples of the war's influence on everyday life and on relationships in Molly's community.

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