Middle-school dynamics, pesky sibling relations, a rumored haunted house, some truly heart-wrenching situations and a mystery all combine to make this coming-of-age novel an engrossing read.
When 10-year-old Minty discovers a hollow tree in the woods that seems to be literally buzzing with secrets, actually finding a secret written on a scrap of paper stashed inside, it sets the stage for a slightly creepy, good old-fashioned mystery. Whose secret is this? What does it mean? Who is running around in the woods, taking pictures of neighbors? Solving these riddles only leads to more questions, and while Minty tries to figure out what's going on, she's also struggling with the fact that her best friend, Paz, seems to be growing up faster than she is. Minty acquires some secrets of her own, not least that she has befriended an apparently parentless kid, Raymond, who seems to live in an abandoned spec house and has some sort of relationship with the feared inhabitant of an old rundown place known as "the Witch House." Minty is a satisfying everygirl—just mischievous enough to seem real—and her interactions with Paz, their older teenage sisters and Paz's little sister Lennie and the "mean boys" from school recall universal coming-of-age experiences.
The neat ending gratifies, with many of the issues having been resolved by the resourceful preteens themselves. (Mystery. 9-12)