“There are some things you should know about me before I tell you everything else.
Let’s start with the worst things first.
Sometimes I lie. I don’t know why I lie, and it’s usually about dumb things that people figure out
right away, or really soon.
It’s embarrassing, if you want to know the truth.”
Harriet Wermer has just finished 3rd grade. When her pregnant mother is prescribed bedrest, Harriet is sent to spend the summer with her grandmother on Marble Island. She isn’t exactly thrilled about it.
The only thing that makes Harriet feel better is that she gets to bring her beloved cat, Matzo Ball, to Marble Island with her. She’ll also get to spend time with Nanu’s dog, Moneypenny, who she loves more than almost anything (but who “historically” doesn’t love cats at all.)
Once Harriet arrives on the island, a new and cloistered world emerges. Nanu runs the Bric-a-Brac, a bed and breakfast on the island, and soon Harriet discovers there are secrets within and around it, as well as some mysteries to be solved.
“Adventure and mystery are everywhere, if you know how to look.”
Harriet learns about – and learns from – the various guests at the Bric-a-Brac. She tries a new ice cream cone flavor at Hans & Gretchen’s Ice Cream Parlor and even learns some things about her dad growing up on the island.
“I was beginning to think that spending the summer with Nanu was looking a little bit better, if every morning was going to start like this, with muffins and hot chocolate and mysteries.”
Author Elana K. Arnold, who also gave us the A Boy Called Bat trilogy, now introduces Harriet, a spunky but sensitive character who brings us along while she attempts to solve some big mysteries – from an antique key and a secret garden to why is it always easier to be mad about something than “curious instead.”
Harriet is more honest than she realizes and more vulnerable than she cares to admit. Though there are rocky moments – a very bad dream, an overflowing washing machine, some annoyingly nice guests, and some “stupid tears” and “stupid missing” – Harriet perseveres.
“If there’s a key, there must be a lock that it opens.”
Just Harriet will delight any reader who is looking for humor and adventure while also delving into some challenges, like dealing with change and learning to manage anger. As Harriet tells us in the end, “After all, if Matzo Ball could find a place in the sun alongside big old Moneypenny, then I could find a place here too.”