Eleven-year-old Ash McNulty is one of the “gifted and talented” kids at her school, spending most of her day in a special class with a few other advanced students. As the end of fifth grade rolls around, she should be on top of the world. According to everyone, she’s going to rock junior high!

But Ash has a secret: She can’t keep up with her advanced classmates anymore. The minute she asks for help though, everyone will know she’s not who they think she is. She’s not so smart. She might not even be that special. And her parents will be crushed to discover the truth.

If Ash can win the Quiz Bowl, though, that will show everyone that she is still on top. If she gets a lucky break ahead of time, all the better.

Except that “lucky break” backfires . . .

And Ash is left to question everything she thought she knew about school, friends, and success.

(FROM Macmillan Publishers)


PAGE COUNT: 240 BOOK BIRTHDAY: June 21, 2022

This title grabbed my attention right away since I taught in a gifted classroom of 24 students for several years. It was more than challenging meeting the needs of each child. Yes, they had taken a test to determine intellectual potential and all came out high on their results. But their abilities and interests were far ranging. Some were ready for high school math and others just beginning to master the material in my 6th grade classroom. The same held true for skill levels in writing, oral communication, science, and I was faced with an even wider range of social emotional needs.

Despite the challenges I had a great time teaching these kids—although my work week went from about 50 hours to over 60 planning and teaching to this group.. The time spent with them inspired me to further study the gifted label and how it effects students, parents, and teachers. I pursued my own research on the gifted label and at the ripe young age of 34 finished a dissertation followed by a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology. What did I conclude about this often misunderstood label? I’ll let you know after I tell you more about GOLDEN TICKET.

The third person narration moves the story along at a nice pace with some great end of chapter teasers. Ash’s parents immigrated to the states from Ireland and manage their own restaurant. A younger sister is also in the family but her giftedness is more in playing soccer than with academics. The first half of the novel leads up to the decision Ash makes to be on top for the Quiz Bowl competition. She cheats and and the new girl catches her in the act.

The intriguing second half of this story has many surprising outcomes for Ash. She gains an unlikely new friend and begins to question everything about her future and self. Is she really “Gifted”?

Ash’s plight would be a great discussion in any 5th or 6th grade classroom. I liked the conclusions Ash finally made and would love to see how it plays out for her in middle school. Overall, my label for Kate Egan’s Golden Ticket is a solid A.


  1. You learn a bit of the Irish slang used by the parents and also about the stereotypes often attached to someone from Ireland.
  2. The fifth graders sounded like fifth graders and not ones being written through an adult’s eyes.
  3. The school handled Ash’s mistake in a perfect way. It wasn’t easy but the end result shined.
  4. Friendship can happen in the most unexpected ways. The lesson that someone who doesn’t look or act like you may indeed become a BFF was a wonderful twist.
  5. The gifted label was given an honest and realistic view from inside Quigley Elementary. Also accurate was how the school year often ends for students in fifth grade who are headed to Middle School the next year.


Kate Egan’s gifts and talents all involve words. She is the author of a picture book, Kate and Nate Are Running Late!, and a chapter book series, The Magic Shop, both published by Feiwel and Friends. Her work has been named to many state reading lists, selected by the Junior Library Guild, and recognized as “Best of the Year” by Amazon. She is also a freelance editor, a prolific ghostwriter, and an occasional book reviewer. Kate lives with her family on the coast of Maine.



A detailed questionnaire and interviews led me to conclude parents and their identified student both had positive reactions to the label, even higher for males. Regular classroom teachers had the most negative reactions expressing it was an elitist concept. They also thought “gifted” kids were losing their regular classroom friendships.

The main conclusion coming from the study was reaffirming my belief that every child has potential to do great things no matter their ability level. Each deserve a year’s worth of growth during a school year. Teachers should begin finding out what students know and understand. From their they can be challenged to extend and learn more. I recommended that separate opportunities for gifted students continue, but also integrate the learning into the regular classroom.

Certainly not easy to obtain. The problem we have in schools is the lack of teacher preparation and support to differentiate for all abilities rather than the traditional one size fits all model. Continued training is essential. Class size also needs to be lowered so that teachers can provide levels of learning for what I called “The don’t have it yet.”; ” Sort of have it.”; and ” I already know that.” ability levels you find in any classroom. Not sure that will ever happen with school budgets, but it would be a great start.

The gifted label is here to stay and differentiated programming options are the key to success for all.

(Comments are welcome below and be sure to stop by again this Friday for a delicious GIVEAWAY opportunity!)

About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...always striving to reach the next peak in my life and career.
This entry was posted in Middle Grade Book Reviews and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to GOLDEN TICKET

  1. It sounds a good story. I like the Irish connection (though both worried and intrigued about the Irish slang! 🙂 ). I don’t like labels, even nice ones, and it puts a lot of pressure on kids, who all have different strengths. However I totally agree that kids who are brighter academically need opportunities to realise their abilities, and kids who struggle need extra help to keep up. Thanks for sharing your own teaching experience, Greg, great insight (we don’t have this system in Ireland, where formal ‘streaming’ by academic ability was got rid of years ago).

  2. I will share your review and your insights about “gifted education” with some special fifth grade teachers I respect at my local Title 1 elementary school. Thank you for sharing!

  3. Danielle Hammelef says:

    I’m excited to read this book. I love this premise and haven’t found a book that deals with this issue before.

  4. msyingling says:

    One of my daughters attended a gifted magnet school, and the other a math and science magnet school in elementary, and took some advanced classes in middle school. I never minded if they couldn’t get into an advanced class. They would have been successful no matter what they took in school. I’m seeing a lot more books with 5th and 6th grade characters that would be more successful in elementary schools rather than middle schools, and I think you’re right about Golden Ticket being a good choice for 5th grade classes! Hope your new school year goes well, Dr. Pattridge!

  5. Wow! Love the title and the summary of the book! Don’t believe I’ve read anything dealing with gifted education. Will look for this one. Thanks for your wonderful review!

  6. I love stories about people who don’t look or act like you becoming a BFF! Thanks for featuring this story. I also enjoyed reading your own research conclusions!

  7. Max @ Completely Full Bookshelf says:

    This sounds like an excellent book, Greg, and it’s spurred some fascinating discussion! I’ve definitely dealt with the strange expectations of the “gifted” label, and although I don’t totally know my thoughts with regards to its educational impact, I do know it can indeed isolate you from other non-gifted students. Also, I’m thrilled that I returned to commenting this week, because otherwise I would not have learned that you have a PhD in Educational Psychology—that is so cool!! Thanks so much for the thoughtful review!

  8. This title grabbed me and your description of the story sounds great. I can feel for the main character and her worry that she no longer belongs in the gifted class. My school had a gifted program my first year teaching- but it got cut from the budget and has never come back (in 23 years). Of course, teachers are expected to differentiate for all their students in every area. I know you can relate to that challenge. 🙂 Now I am in the library and hopefully am helping teachers meet the different needs of their kiddos through my lessons and the programs I run. Interesting to learn about your PhD in Educational Psychology. Sounds fascinating!

  9. This sounds like such a great story. Kids so often feel out of their element, especially when they are in a special class of some kind. I’ll be looking for this book. Thanks for the review.

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