Monday, February 12, 2024

MMGM- Lost Kites

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 
Carr, Cathy. Lost Kites and Other Treasures
February 6, 2024 by Amulet Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Franny Petroski has had to deal with a lot in her twelve years, but things are looking up. Even though she hasn't seen her mother since she was four, she has a stable life with her Nana, a dental hygienist, in a cozy apartment above a coffee shop, and enjoys doing artwork with found objects. She sees a school conselour to help her through some of her issues, but is fairly content with good friends Lucy Bernal and Ruben Yao. When her grandmother breaks her leg taking out the trash (which Franny should have done), the family's fragile existence is disturbed. Luckily, Ruben's mother, Dr. Yao, finds a single story, handicapped accessible house that the family of one of her patients is willing to rent. The man who lived there has gone to a nursing home, and while the place is a little dingy and dated, it's easier for Nana to navigate. It's still hard for the two to get groceries and other things they need to get by, so Nana asks her son Gary, who lives in Wisconsin, to come to the East Coast and stay with them. Gary is a computer programmer, so can work from home, but has a difficult relationship with his mother, mainly because of the problems that Franny's mother Mia had while the two were growing up. Nana has never told Franny too many details, and her memory of being with her mother is not very strong. She is curious about her, and hopes to find out more details from her uncle, and also from one of her mother's friends, Carlton, whom they meet when stopping by to see the house where Gary grew up. Franny is also having some typical middle school friend problems; Lucy has moved to England to live with her grandmother while her father has a position there, and Ruben has started to hang out with a group of gamers, including the mean Tate, who is always giving Franny a hard time. When Franny tells Ruben that she's found out her mother has bipolar disorder, and he tells Tate, this further stresses their relationship. While her grandmother's  leg is improving, the emotional toll that the injury has taken is still there, and Franny is struggling with the new information about her mother and the impact that it may have on her own life. Will the Petroskis be able to find a way forward?
Strengths: Sometimes it's hard to put my finger on just WHY I like a book so much. Characters who have different and slightly challenging lives are always intriguing, and this felt a little like Berry's Heart Finds or Hope Springs, with the touches of art and the inclusion of a loving but troubled grandparent. The adult in me was worried for Franny and wanted to take dinner to her and her grandmother, and my inner twelve-year-old wanted to do art projects with her and be her friend. The characters in the book were all fully formed and interesting. There's Gary, who wants to help but has his own life in Wisconsin that doesn't involve having to deal with the fall out his sister has left; Aunt Gravy (Gracie), her grandmother's best friend and former coworker who is really very helpful but whom Franny just doesn't like; Carlton, who has a deeper connection to Franny's past than she realizes; Nana, who is doing her best to get by and who is struggling with her own emotions; and Ruben, who has a large and loving family but just can't quite understand how difficult things are for Franny. Weirdly, the house and its basement contents that Franny turn into art, were oddly intriguing. I could just see and smell it in my mind's eye! I guess that all of these things combine to make this a book that I felt I could step right into, which is a difficult thing for an author to accomplish.
Weaknesses: While Franny's troubles at school are mentioned a bit, I would have liked to see more school scenes to give a better idea to young readers how troubles at home might be impacting their classmates. There are too many young people like Tate who don't really stop and think about the life circumstances of people they encounter on a daily basis. This would have made the book a lot longer, though, and it's a good length for middle grade readers the way it is. 
What I really think: This has all of the elements that I think make a great middle grade novel; a young person who has an interest in doing things, friend drama, realistic and not horrific family drama, and a fantastic portrayal of resilience. The scene where the toilet in the new house overflows when her grandmother is out and Franny deals with it herself by phoning her friend Ruben is brilliant. When Aunt Gravy says that the house smells line Pine-Sol and Franny doesn't say anything about the disaster-- that's a perfect middle grade moment. Highly recommended.


  1. I had not heard of this new book. Your enticing review has me anxious to start reading ASAP. Love the characters and I too often find books with multiple appealing aspects. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on MMGM this week.

  2. Your review of the book makes it sound so refusing. Will keep an eye out for it.

  3. This sounds like a winner. I like the interesting problems Franny faces. I'll look for this one. Thanks for the review.

  4. This sounds a great book, and although I don't read much contemporary fiction, I might check this one out. The minimal school time is actually a plus for me! Thanks for the recommendation! :)