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by Keir Graff

Pub Date: Sept. 8th, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-984813-85-5
Publisher: Putnam

Dagmar’s dad, Trent, couldn’t sell—or pay for—the tiny house he built in Oakland; now relocated next to a redwood forest, it’s the tiny family home.

The cramped household also includes Dagmar’s artist stepmom, Leya, and younger half brother, Santi. Trent’s a skilled repurposer, but despite support from Dagmar’s corporate-executive mom, family finances are precarious. Dagmar, 12, who misses her friends, loathes Leya’s vegetarian cuisine, and resents being tailed by Santi, works surreptitiously to engineer the family’s return to Oakland and combats boredom exploring the forest. Ignoring the “no trespassing” sign, she encounters surveillance cameras, barking mastiffs, and traps set by the landowners—a tech billionaire and his warring adult siblings—and meets the billionaire’s competitive son, Blake, also 12. Blake shows off his family’s gizmo-heavy domicile and invites Dagmar (equally competitive) and Santi along on a mall trip escorted by Vladimir, his bodyguard, where they enjoy real (i.e., junk) food and an exciting mall chase that includes escalator surfing. While the kids’ friendship grows, Blake’s dad, uncle, and aunt remain at odds. With the long, hot summer nearing fire season, Graff’s signature, over-the-top plotting builds to a thrilling climax. The whimsically drawn characters are good company, especially resourceful Dagmar, a droll tour guide whose tart commentary is a highlight.

This smart, hilarious mashup of off-the-grid minimalism and smart-home consumerism adds up to a quirky treat.

(Fiction. 8-12)