Review of Trashed!

Trashed! Trashed!
by Martha Freeman
Intermediate    Wiseman/Simon    304 pp.
1/23    9781665905350    $17.99
e-book ed.  9781665905374    $10.99

Arthur Popper is a diffident, slightly anxious eleven-year-old who lives with his parents and younger sister above the family business, a thriving, capacious secondhand store in Boulder, Colorado. He works shifts in the store and is valued for being “good at customer service” but longs for another area where he can truly shine. When some family members’ and friends’ jewelry starts disappearing, he takes on the mystery-solving challenge. He receives advice from a ghost mouse who lives in a teacup on his bookshelf, the single touch of fantasy in an otherwise naturalistic novel. The detective narrative, which is tidily composed and plausible, provides the scaffolding for a story of family and community relationships that is a tour de force of small, beautifully calibrated effects. Arthur’s best friend is Veda, who is Latinx, but things go sideways for them when Arthur’s grandfather expresses a prejudice against “certain kinds of people.” Freeman doesn’t provide easy answers to the problem of a bigoted family member, nor does she give Grandpa an easy epiphany. Instead she portrays a realistic, flawed family with all its tensions. She allows Arthur to encounter and grapple with the concept of white privilege on his own, in age-appropriate terms, keeping the focus firmly on the child characters and their strengths.

From the January/February 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Sarah Ellis
Sarah Ellis is a Vancouver-based writer and critic, recently retired from the faculty of The Vermont College of Fine Arts.

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