KS(book)Report: Goodnight Wildcats | by Samantha Hawthorne

KS(book)Report: Goodnight Wildcats | by Samantha Hawthorne

I’ve read more books in the last three years than in the previous 20 years combined. The secret? Having a three-year-old who likes you to read him before bedtime. Toddler books are short. With this in mind, I decided to mix it up with the third edition of the KS(book)Report series and review a children’s story instead of a 200-plus-page memoir. So let’s dive into the first Kentucky Wildcats I found online: Goodnight Wildcats by Samantha Hawthorne.

I admit, I did not do a flurry of research on this one before adding it to my Amazon cart. At a glance, I thought I was purchasing a blue-bleeding author’s reputably-published passion project. However, it turns out Goodnight Wildcats is one book in a series of a “Goodnight [insert school mascot here]” children’s books by a mom with a side hustle. After reading it, I came to the conclusion that the closest Hawthorne may have ever come to Kentucky is visiting her local KFC.

Live and learn, I suppose. They all can’t be page-turners like Rex Chapman’s memoir, It’s Hard for Me to Live with Me, or Jack Givens’ life story, They Call Me Goose.

Regardless, I read to my 3-year-old son in an attempt to inject some Kentucky fandom into his veins.

The Words

Like all too many children’s books, Goodnight Wildcats does not have a plot. It’s more of an overly simplistic poem spread out over multiple pages. I had a naive impression going in that this book would be sports-centric and while it makes vague references to athletics, it also talks about studying hard for exams and even includes the jaw-dropping line, “Goodnight, homework.”

The fact that this author has a host of books written in the same vain for over 20 major universities, including Goodnight Volunteers, Goodnight Longhorns, and her most highly-reviewed one, Goodnight Notre Dame, I would venture to guess the exact same poem is used with each school only to swap out the very few specific references to the campus.

For example, Rupp Arena gets a goodnight wish, as does “Big Blue,” but aside from the words Kentucky and Wildcats scattered in a few times, this poem could be written about any campus in America.

The Illustrations

This book claims to be illustrated, however, I’m fairly confident the author simply took photos and ran them through an oil painting filter in Photoshop. There are a few images of campus mixed in with stock images of generic photo models like the stereotypical doctor and orchestra musicians.

As far as sports go, there is an “illustration” of AJ Rose running with a football, De’Aaron Fox going up for a dunk, and my personal favorite, a snapshot of the basketball bench from 2018 celebrating, featuring Hamidou Diallo, Brad Calipari, and a flexing Johnny David.

I would bet every children’s book my kid owns (probably his toys too) that Hawthorne had no idea who any of these people were when this book came out in 2020.

Overall Impression

Out of all the children’s books out there, this is certainly one of them. If you want a generic story with images of walk-on basketball players flexing that won’t extend bedtime very long, then sure, pick this up on Amazon. However, you are likely to get a more Kentucky-specific bedtime story by asking ChatGPT.

For me and my son, this one will likely get covered with Spiderman or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles stickers before it gets any more reads. We are always looking for spare paper to decorate.

I’ll credit this book for existing, but that’s about it. Hawthorne clearly found a duplicable rhyme that works and applied to the masses. I respect the hustle. But the lack of any true Kentucky-specificity won’t trigger any nostalgic feelings in any diehard parent of Big Blue Nation.

On a scale of zero to eight banners, KS(book)Report gives Goodnight Wildcats a one.