Thursday, September 29, 2022

The Secret Letters: Mysteries of Trash and Treasure (#1)

Haddix, Margaret Peterson. Mysteries of Trash and Treasure: The Secret Letters
September 20th 2022 by Katherine Tegen Books 
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Colin's Creedmont's mother Felicia runs an organizing business in the small town of Groveview, Ohio, and he is helping her during the summer because the camp he wants to attend it too expensive. When cleaning out one house, he finds a box of letters. Even though his mother is a minamalist, he feels oddly drawn to the letters and keeps them. Nevaeh Greevey's father runs the Junk King enterprise in the same town, which has been in the family in one form or another for years. He is more interested in selling other people's "trash" that he can see is "treasure". When he wins permission to clean out the fabled Mangold storage unit supposedly full of priceless antiques when Nevaeh first starts working with the business (her much older siblings already do), he is disappointed when there is empty except for a letter. He suspects that, somehow, Colin's mother is behind the disappearance, since she worked for him years ago and the two have a rivalry. When Colin reads some of the letters, one of which says there is another box in another house, he runs into Nevaeh, who knows Mrs. Torres in the house, gets permission to go into the attic, and helps Colin find the box. The two have to hide what they are doing from their families, and arrange to watch Mrs. Torres' twins once a week. They also meet at the library and start researching Toby and Rosemary, who were children in Groveview in the late 1970s. Their friendship ended poorly, and both families moved away. Colin and Nevaeh find that they share similar interests, and get along well, and they are drawn to this mystery for many reasons. They eventually locate Toby, who is a professor at Ohio State University and stops by Groveview to talk to them, but have trouble locating Rosemary. When the mystery behind the Mangold storage unit seems to be tied to Rosemary, the families have to unite to figure out what happened. Will Colin and Nevaeh be able to remain friends, or will they suffer the same fate as Toby and Rosemary?
Strengths: Wow. Let's make a note that this book made me tear up. We've got a great setting, where Colin and Nevaeh are able to bike around a small town, learn its history, and talk to neighbors while observing safety protocols for interacting with strangers. Very much appreciated that, especially when Nevaeh uses Colin's phone to text Toby. Colin and Nevaeh's family dynamics are both fascinating, and seeing them work in the family business was fantastic. They have very different families, but are kindred spirits, and both feel slightly at odds with the way their families operate. Toby and Rosemary's story was interesting when they were young, but this took a spectacular turn and just blew me away when the Mangold storage unit got tied in with the penpals. This is such a good exploration of the historic treatment of women, and is pitch perfect with modern times as well. An absolute tour de force from Haddix, and I can't wait to read more about Colin and Nevaeh's investigations. 
Weaknesses: The cover isn't great. I would have loved to see a photograph or drawing of older homes on a shady Ohio small town street. 
What I really think: I...I need to preorder a copy for myself from my local independent bookseller. This hit me the same way that John F. Carson's The Mystery of the Tarnished Trophy (1967) hit me when I read it in 1974, and I've never been able to get rid of the copy that was weeded from my father's elementary school library! The combination of my own personal childhood era, women's history, the Ohio setting, the estate sales (it seems like most of my friends have had to clean out their parents' houses recently, and two older residents of my street also passed away), and Colin and Nevaeh's charming, equal friendship made me love this one so much. Aside from my personal feelings, I think this will appeal to young readers who want to know what life was like in a different era, and I appreciated Haddix' glossary of terms and television shows. 

Ms. Yingling

1 comment:

  1. Yet again! Another book that reminds me that my childhood years are now History. And not even my childhood--I was in my 20's in the 1970's. Even my young adulthood is History!