Twelve-year-old Minna Treat makes a new friend and learns something new about an old one as she grapples with the expectations of family and community in Gilbreth, a small New York town dedicated to the perpetuation of traditional crafts.
Minna’s first-person narration is wry and articulate. Raised by her sole known relative, her uncle, after the untimely deaths of her mother and grandparents, Minna has read far more than her share of parenting books. Their droll titles and humorously pat advice are sprinkled throughout; excerpts from a history of the town head each chapter and provide additional context. With an important contest looming, questions about the identity of her unknown father beginning to feel more urgent, her uncle’s (mostly hidden) anxiety about their finances, and the recent election of a mayor intent on modernization and improvements, Minna has plenty to ponder. The addition of mysterious messages found in glass bottles, the mayor’s awkward daughter, and Minna’s best friend’s suddenly secretive behavior gives readers lots to think about too as they follow Minna’s adventures in the month preceding the annual Autumnfest. Lawson creates an engaging cast of characters, most apparently white, and keeps the tone light and the plot moving so that Minna’s adolescent angst is entertaining rather than distressing.
Not every mystery is resolved, but readers will likely still be pleased with the outcome. (Fiction. 8-12)