What begins as a relaxing summer finds middle schooler Effie discovering proverbial skeletons in her family’s closet, er…shed.
While Effie’s parents are flying the first solar plane around the world, the white girl is spending her summer on the Zook family farm with her aunt and uncle. Effie’s great-grandfather was the original owner of this farm and (fictional) inventor of the barf bag, so now the family is “well fixed.” When she meets two neighbor kids, both also white, she gets an inkling that some folks in this rural area are not fans of her family. The kids’ father, Mr. Yoder, is leader of a growing movement called Beards for America based on Effie’s great-grandfather’s “Precepts” (No. 1: “A man’s beard is a signifier of his special place in the natural order of things”), and yet the two families aren’t on speaking terms. Despite her many queries—and Effie is excellent at asking questions—the grown-ups are close-lipped about the tension between the families. After befriending the town’s only black resident, Effie reconstructs the murky history of her relatives. On the surface this feels a light, sun-dappled read, but within the depths of this story lurk compelling truths about sexism and racism that give shadow, dimension, and heft to this perky yarn. Effie’s growing awareness of her privilege and its origins is an appropriately complicated one.
A light-feeling read that effectively delves dark depths. (author’s note) (Fiction. 8-13)