Review Detail

Middle Grade Fiction 105
Mystery in a City Neighborhood
Overall rating
Writing Style
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Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Magnolia is ten, and spends most of her days at the Bing Qi Ling Bubbles Laundromat that her parents run. Her only friend has moved away, and she has little interest in making new ones, even though it means that her birthday party will be a little sad. Her mother has a friend, Mrs. Lam, who works nearby as a dance instructor, and she brings her daughter Iris to hang out with Magnolia. Iris has just moved from California, and thinks it is better than New York, so Magnolia sets out to show her all of the interesting things about the neighborhood. Magnolia has a bulletin board at the laundry filled with single socks, and after an angry customer is mean to her mother and derides the board, Magnolia decides that she should investigate and try to return the socks to their owners, with Iris' help. The two start to ask questions, and talk to a lot of neighborhood business owners, running errands for them as they look for clues as to who might belong to the socks. They track down yarn at the Knitty Bitty shop, which leads them to Alan, who also plays piano. They stop by a pizza parlor and bookstore, and meet Jessica, who plays soccer and is rather lonely. When there is grafitti in the neighborhood that says "Go home!", Iris is sad, so Magnolia tries to recreate a California beach with cat litter. After finding the home of the final sock, which smells like coconut, the two girls are friends, and feel closer to their neighborhood.
Good Points
SThis had a bit of a vintage feel to it, with Magnolia having some Harriet the Spy (Fitzhugh) or A Girl Called Al (Greene) vibes. Living in suburbia, I am enthralled by vibrant city landscapes, but I also find it hard to believe that they really exist! Magnolia and Iris are allowed a fair amount of freedom to wander about and meet people, which is delightful. There are plentiful page decorations, which is something I would like to see more in middle grade literature.

This is a good choice for younger readers who like books that center around neighborhoods, like Vivat's Meet Me on Mercer Street, LaCoer and Albert's The Apartment House on Poppy Hill, or Finnegan's Sunny Parker is Here to Stay.

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