South of Somewhere

Albert Whitman. Apr. 2024. 288p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780807577141.
Gr 3-7–Returning from a Hawaiian vacation with her family, 12-year-old Mavis Callahan thinks her biggest problem is the sticky sand lingering between her toes. But when the Callahans turn onto their Chicago street, Mavis’s plans to race her older siblings to the shower are derailed by the FBI. The agents are there to arrest her mom, Julie, for embezzlement. But Julie Callahan had mysteriously separated from the rest of her family at the airport, and now can’t be reached. Mavis and her dad and siblings are stunned to learn that all their family assets, including their house, have been seized. They retreat to their estranged aunt’s house in tiny Fairbank, IL. Cramming their family of four into Aunt Melissa’s bungalow is a challenge for the privileged Callahans, but they soon adapt to their new normal. By spending time with her four-year-old cousin, Mavis learns that she actually enjoys babysitting, which soon leads to a friendship and joint babysitting venture with neighbor Emma. Meanwhile, questions swirl about Julie’s whereabouts. Postcards from far flung, tropical destinations hint that she’s on the run; but if the Callahan siblings and their new friends team up, they just might find her and get some answers. All main characters are presumed white.
VERDICT A charming entry in the crowded middle grade contemporary field. Great for fans of Janae Marks and Dusti Bowling.

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