Trouble abounds when shadowy figures dump mysterious gloop near Owl’s Outstanding Donuts.
While the neighborhood sleeps, an owl named Alfred notices the white truck as it stops and two scoundrels discard the gloop into the creek before leaving again. Worried about the pollution, Alfred alerts a local girl named Mattie Waters. At first, Mattie’s slow to act. The recent death of her mother plagues the young girl, who’s moved to Big Sur to live with Aunt Molly, owner of Owl’s. Summer’s ending, fifth grade approaches, and Mattie is finding it hard to move on. She knows, though, that the gloop-pollutant spells trouble for her aunt’s renowned doughnut shop. Together with the Little sisters (7-year-old ball of fun Beanie and the older, skeptical Sasha), Mattie must unmask the culprits behind the gloop. Again blending realism with talking animals, Yardi (The Midnight War of Mateo Martinez, 2016) devotes a significant number of pages toward unpacking Mattie’s grief in her latest novel, a narrative that shuns action in favor of introspection. This tendency mostly works thanks to a robust cast of winning characters and a satisfying emotional arc. The third-person narration sticks to Mattie for the most part, with some excursions into Alfred’s amusing point of view. Except for a few peripheral characters, a white default is assumed.
Doughn’t miss this earnest tale. (Fantasy. 8-12)