Thursday, January 19, 2023


Freeman, Martha. Trashed!
January 17, 2023 by Simon Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Arthur and Ramona Popper live with their parents in Boulder, Colorado, in an apartment above Universal Trash, a second-hand shop that was started by their mother's parents in 1980. Their mother is a lawyer, and their father runs the shop. Their grandfather is increasingly grumpy, especially since their grandmother is off on a motorcyle trip across the country. Arthur, who is in middle school, frequently helps out in the shop, and is very good at customer service. He even helps with the inventory, adding index cards to the paper database, since the grandfather doesn't want to use a computer. When Arthur sees a chipped tea cup with a dancing bear on it, he knows it is not something that the shop had stocked. His grandfather is taken aback; it's the item that he had started the shop with, but which was consequently stolen. There's a mystery to be solved, and Arthur starts investigating after the ghost of his sister's pet mouse encourages him. Mouse 4, who is glad to have Watson as his new name, talks to Arthur and guides him in helpful directions. Arthur's best friend, Veda, also helps in the shop when she is not taking care of her younger brothers. She is worried that her mother, who runs a house cleaning business, is dating Juan, who works as a cleaner, but soon decides that he is a decent guy. When he applies to work at Universal Trash, the grandfather is very insulting, and tell's Arthur's father that "those people" can't be trusted. Arthur and his father are appalled, but an older worker, Randolph, shares some information about some of the good things that the grandfather did back in the day. The mystery of the tea cup is complicated when a number of items show up at the shop that are similar to ones that members of his mother's book club claim they have one "just like it in a jewelry box". The index cards for these items are all in the Red File, meaning that the consigner doesn't want to be known, and when Arthur goes to investigate, the Red File is missing. His grandfather blames Juan, but Arthur knows there is something else going on. Will he be able to figure things out with the help of Watson?
Strengths: Universal Trash is about the most perfect setting for a middle grade lit book I can imagine. The backstory of the grandparents founding it, the advertising campaign ("Save the earth and save your cash/ shop at Universal Trash!"), and the mystery of the book club members was fascinating. The relationships between Arthur and his friends and family were somehow especially intriguing and well-drawn. Ramona is in first grade, but Arthur gets along with her fairly well. He has rough moments with Veda, and also with some of his friends at school who make fun of him for having a teacup. Randolph, as well as Officer Berstein and Jennifer ( a store employee training for an ultra marathon) have brief scenes but are so much fun. I feel like Mrs. Dannenberg, the school librarian, has been having the kind of school year I've been having. I'm not normally one to sigh or roll my eyes, but it's been that kind of year! 
Weaknesses: The inclusion of the talking mouse makes this a bit young. Also, did the professor who bought the pocket watch have to give it back? I don't think we found out. I also wanted to know if the thief got a prison sentence; the individual items weren't worth all that much, but together that was a fairly serious crime! 
What I really think: I would have adored this book in about fourth grade. All of the elements work well together, even the talking mouse ghost. I may well have to buy a copy of this for myself, which I rarely do. This might take a little bit of hand selling to my students, but I love it so much that I'm sure I can convince readers of books like Costner's My Life as a Potato and Richards' Stu Truly that they will enjoy this one. 

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous11:57 PM EST

    Hello my name is John Cooper. I went to Blendon Middle school from 2011-2013. I have fond memories in your library. I came to the library often asking you about new books and you also let me check out extra books too. I’m so happy to see that you still update your blog because I know I would read your blog often to get my next book fix. So great to see this!