Thursday, May 25, 2023

The Museum of Lost and Found

Sales, Leila. The Museum of Lost and Found
May 16, 2023 by Amulet Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus
Vanessa's mother is very busy with work, so she and her older brother Sterling try to pick up the slack while their father is stationed in Germany. The family has been in Edgewood Falls, Ohio after moving around quite a bit, and Vanessa has been friends with Bailey since second grade. In middle school, however, the two are growing apart, and when Bailey doesn't invite Vanessa to her birthday party, this is quite a blow. While out in the neighborhood, Vanessa comes across an abandoned museum that has signs posted that it is to be torn down; but it's too enthralling to stay out of. She finds a usual assortment of trash and debris, but also a large picture of two girls by a fountain. She cleans the place up, and starts a small museum of her own, containing memorabilia of her relationship with Bailey, complete with notes about what the items meant. Soon, however, her space is invaded by Eli, whom she knows from Hebrew school. He wants to have his own exhibit about his late dog, Einstein, and before long there are several exhibits, as well as visitors who are all sworn to secrect. Sterling notices that Vanessa is often not home after school and joins her as well. At one point, Vanessa's items are stolen, and she blames Bailey, but also starts to take a look at how she really treated her friend. After seeing the fountain from the picture in town, Vanessa investigates who painted the picture, and when she finds out it is the first work of famed artist Mariko Marsden, she tries to contact the family of the elusive painter. Being found out will spell the end of the museum, but will it lead to other opportunities for Vanessa and her friends?
Strengths: First of all, there is no Edgewood Falls in Ohio, but there is an Edgewood, and lots of Falls in Northeastern Ohio, so this was a brilliant setting! (I spent most of my childhood near Youngstown.) The idea of an abandoned museum is absolutely enthralling; if you are a fan of Edwards' Mandy and secretly want to clean up derelict buildings, this is the book for you. For younger readers, there is plenty of realistic friend drama that is very insightful. Failed middle school friendships usually have blame to be laid on all sides. The way the art mystery evolved was very effective, and I loved the inclusion of Hebrew school, especially after the family conversation about "having" to attend services for a year before having a bar or bat mitzvah. I imagine that this depicts the way a lot of families feel about religious education: tweens have to do it even if it doesn't really have any spiritual meaning! 
Weaknesses: I didn't care so much about the children's museum descriptions, but actual tweens might be more invested in that. It was nice that when Mariko Marsden funds the reopening of the museum, she stipulated that children will be given space for exhibits. 
What I really think: The author gives a shout out to Konigsberg's From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler , which has held up surprisingly well as Snyder's The Egypt Game, which I should reread if I still have a copy. This definitely captured the feel of that era of literature, but also incorporated modern day anxiety as well as Vanessa's body-focused repetitive behavior of tearing at the skin on her fingers, which I haven't seen in a middle grade novel before. There's a feel good ending, and was a very enjoyable book. Now, where's MY abandoned museum?

Ms. Yingling


  1. Anonymous2:39 PM EDT

    This one looks really intriguing to me. I love books with a good art connection.

  2. A museum setting and fractured friendships are both themes that sound ideal for middle grade books.