- All That’s Missing by Sarah Sullivan
Arlo and his grandfather have been living on their own since the car accident that killed Arlo’s parents, but the sixth-grader finds himself taking care of Poppo more than the other way around as Poppo’s memory gets worse and worse. After a stroke sends Poppo to the hospital, Arlo, wanting to avoid being sent to a shelter, runs away to Virginia to find his other remaining relative, his father’s mother. Though Ida Jones has been estranged from her grandson (his parents’ marriage caused a serious falling out) and there’s a bit of friction between the two, she readily accepts Arlo into her home. Arlo befriends Maywood, the daughter of a local bookstore owner, and adjusts to life in the small town, in spite of the fact that Ida’s slated to sell her home and move to a condo in Richmond. Just when she’s poised to change her mind and stay, an out-of-town buyer’s suspiciously interested in her home, and Arlo and Maywood are determined to find out why. There’s no pretension in this simple but deep story, and Arlo’s struggles in his relationships with both Ida and Poppo—and his attempts to get a sense of his family’s muddied history—are treated with both frankness and sweetness. A playful air of mystery hangs over the second half of the novel, and there are even tinges of a good ghost story as Arlo and Maywood try to scare off the prospective buyer. Art history buffs will especially appreciate the fact that the final reveal involves a long-lost painting, but the carefully detailed development of a boy learning how to deal with being caught in-between will appeal to a wide range of readers. An author’s note including the history of an African-American artist whose life inspired the lost-painting portion of the plot is included.