Wednesday, August 30, 2023

The Museum of Lost and Found, by Leila Sales

Twelve year-old Vanessa has a lot on her mind. She is trying to understand why her childhood friend Bailey no longer wants to be her friend.  She's missing her father who is serving overseas somewhere in eastern Africa.  And finally, she's trying to figure out a way to stop picking at the skin on her cuticles.  It hurts and people around her think it's disgusting, but she can't seem to manage to stop.

After a particularly bad day, she goes on a walk and finds herself in front of an abandoned building.  Finding a way inside, she discovers it once was a museum and it still has the old display cases and even an abandoned painting inside.  This gives her the idea that she could use the space to stage her own exhibit dedicated to her lost friendship with Bailey.  She invites other kids to visit and some of them want to stage their own exhibits.  The building is large enough, so they open the whole thing up to other kids to stage their own exhibits, creating a groundswell of interest in exhibition.

While an original premise, this is a fairly typical middle grade story about friendships and family, which wraps up most of its issues in the end.  As an adult, I was a bit twitched about depicting children running around in an abandoned building.  More problematically, I found Vanessa a rather unsympathetic character.  She's bossy and vengeful, taking particular pleasure in using her exhibit to slander her former friend.  And while she reconciles with Bailey and makes some amends in the end, her instincts don't tend to lean towards kindness.

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