Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Summary: Leah usually loves her summer visits to her aunt and uncle’s house in Chicago. But this year is different: her younger cousin T.J. has been traumatized by a shooting at his school and has stopped talking. Leah is determined to help him, but is at a loss as to how to do it until one night she sees T.J. sneaking out of the house and follows him. He goes to a neighborhood laundromat, where she hears him talking and laughing with Michelle, the owner’s daughter who’s about her age. Eventually, Leah and her new friend Vicki join them, and the four create a world called The Land of Lost Things, using items people have left behind at the laundromat. When Leah films their creations and puts it on YouTube, their new world suddenly goes viral. Unexpectedly, with a series of stops and starts, The Land of Lost Things proves to be the key to unlocking T.J.’s secret about what happened the day of the shooting and to help him to move forward with his healing. 304 pages; grades 4-7.
Pros: It can’t be easy to write about a school shooting for an elementary audience, but J. S. Puller has found a way to talk about T.J.’s trauma without going into too many details about what actually happened that day. This is a book that could open up discussions on a wide range of topics, told by a narrator whom many readers will relate to.
Cons: I thought there was going to be some big reveal about Michelle’s younger brother who lately spends all his time in his room playing video games, but I was disappointed.