After her two best friends turn against her, Catarina “Cat” Arden-Blume is grateful for the opportunity to leave New York to spend a few weeks with her aunt, uncle, and cousin Lexie in Baton Rouge. Cat is particularly intrigued by the idea of getting to know her estranged paternal grandmother, Safta, who cut ties with Cat’s dad when he married her non-Jewish mom. Unfortunately, Safta is less than friendly. She criticizes Cat’s clothes and ignores her questions about Shabbat. As she and Lexie help out at Safta’s ritzy department store, Gerta’s, Cat is shocked to discover that Safta’s bristly demeanor disappears in the presence of customers and adoring employees. Cat feels uncomfortable around her family and it doesn’t help that she often gets caught in the middle as she is forced to cover for Lexie, who frequently feigns illness so that she can sneak out to see her obnoxious boyfriend.
Determined to learn more about Safta, her father’s childhood, and the family’s secretive history, Cat is enthralled to discover a hidden storeroom at Gerta’s filled with old letters in German, artifacts, papers, and photos. Through digging and research, Cat puts together the pieces of a family mystery, shedding light on secrets and answering questions about Safta’s story that she didn’t even know she had.
Summer of Stolen Secrets offers dynamic, layered insights into the juxtapositions of family bonds and the heavy secrets and hidden stories that trickle down through generations. The book ignites varying emotions, ranging from Cat’s humorous observations to touching and heartbreaking discoveries. Cat is a clever and relatable protagonist. Uniquely, her inner voice is directed to Safta. Cat narrates as she chronicles the details ranging from an uncomfortable encounter at a classmate’s Bat Mitzvah to her experiences in Louisiana. Readers will enjoy her attentive, sometimes wry insights.
Middle grade students will enjoy this highly recommended, moving, engaging story.