Chalfoun, Michelle. The Treasure of Maria Mamoun
July 12th 2016 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
E ARC from Netgalley.com
Maria and her single mother live in the Bronx. Her mother must work very hard to make ends meet, and Maria is often alone. This isn't too bad until the mean girls in her school target her. This is the impetus her mother needs to leave the city. She gets a job taking care of an elderly, infirm gentleman, Mr. Ironwall, on Martha's Vineyard. The two are given a small, cozy house, and the housekeeper brings them pans of sweet rolls and picnic lunches. Concerned that Maria won't have anything to do, she is given the responsibility of walking Mr. Ironwall's dog. She meets the housekeeper's son, Paolo, and the two decide that they will fix up a boat that Mr. Ironwall has left dormant. They hope that this will encourage the gentleman to get out of bed and not worsen and die, leaving everyone whose job depends on him "high and dry". Maria also finds some clues in the attic of the small house that leads her to believe that there is the titular treasure to be found, and she and Paolo try to find it.
Strengths: So many good descriptions of houses, food, and family. Paolo's grandmother and grandfather are so appealing! I would have adored this as a child-- let me walk the dog! Let me befriend the old man who worked in Hollywood! Pure wish fulfillment all over the place. The other thing that I very much enjoyed was the interweaving of people's ethnic backgrounds. Maria's mother is Lebanese, and cooks a lot of Lebanese food, and sprinkles words into her conversation. Part of Paolo's family is Brazilian, but his grandparents are long time islanders. This was part of the family, and just casually described, but in such a warm and delightful way that it just made the families have more depth and personality. Well done.
Weaknesses: This had an odd beginning, with the mean girls. Although I liked the older shop keeper who helped out the family, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop-- I knew they wouldn't be there long.
What I really think: This won't be a super popular book, but will be a big hit with the right reader.