Molly of Denali is not just another podcast for kids. The Alaska-set action-adventure series is part Encyclopedia Brown, part American Girl, and all rooted in Native storytelling. The star of the show is Alaska Native Molly Mabray, who lives in the fictional Alaskan town of Qyah with her bush pilot mother and wilderness guide father. The adventure begins when Molly’s birthday cake goes missing just days before her 10th birthday. Being a curious young woman, she sets out to crack the case with the help of a mysterious raven and ends up finding something way better than a piece of cake.
That’s the first adventure for the upstart gumshoe, anyway, and fans can follow along over the course of eight 15-minute episodes that are sized just right for young attention spans. The podcast is a partnership between PRX, WGBH Boston, and podcast producer Gen-Z media and serves as a prequel to an upcoming kids’ TV show of the same name, which is coming to PBS on July 15.
While everyone loves a good mystery, what makes this podcast (and TV series) truly groundbreaking is that all the indigenous characters are voiced by indigenous actors, and Alaska Native voices are featured across the production, including in story development and creative direction. The theme song, which is featured in the PBS KIDS series and podcast, is sung by members of the Yupik Alaska Native band Pamyua, with music from Gwich’in fiddler Brennan Firth.
In fact, the series is the first nationally distributed kids’ show in the U.S. to feature a Native American lead, which is exciting but also depressing in that it has taken so long. As has been proven time and time again, representation matters, especially for kids, and having a story revolving around the adventures of a young Alaska native is a small but important step. And if you don’t trust me on the subject, here are Eva Longoria’s thoughts on the matter.
The first two episodes of the Molly of Denali podcast will be released on Thursday, May 30, then a new episode will be released every Thursday through July 11 on mollyofdenalipodcast.org or your favorite podcast app.