Absolutely Truly: A Pumpkin Falls Mystery

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Absolutely Truly:  A Pumpkin Falls Mystery Book Poster Image
Mildly entertaining tween mystery falls short in resolution.

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Kids say

age 8+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Lots of age-appropriate books mentioned, including Charlotte's Web (revealing a major spoiler), The Borrowers, and The Wolves of Willoughby Chase. Brief explanations of many birds' characteristics, IEDs, prosthetic arms, covered bridges, frozen waterfalls, E.B. White, competitive swimming, and military slang. Latin names for two or three bird species given. Main characters and brief plot outlines for Much Ado About Nothing and High Noon. In the back of the book, there's a recipe for pumpkin whoopie pies and a list of books mentioned in the story. 

Positive Messages

What you think of as your greatest flaw may turn out be a strength. Soldiers returning from combat duty need a lot of patience and understanding while they heal physically and mentally. A community is like a family: There are a few oddballs, but you have to remember they're still family.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Truly Lovejoy, 12, feels a bit sorry for herself, but she learns to adapt to new circumstances and make the best of things. Her father is emotionally distant while recovering from a combat injury. Her mother's distracted and busy yet supportive and goes back to college to further her education. Truly's four siblings and gang of friends are cheerful and loyal. A couple of mean boys turn out not to be such bad sorts after all.

Violence & Scariness

Mild bullying in the form of frequent teasing. A teacher admonishes the teasers, but they face no consequences, and the teasing continues. Mild peril when children climb to heights unsupervised. One falls into freezing cold water, but all situations are safely resolved.

Language

Mild name-calling such as "Truly Drooly" and "Truly Gigantic."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Absolutely Truly is a tame mystery from Heather Vogel Frederickauthor of The Mother-Daughter Book Club. The plot involves some discovered love letters, but there's nothing of concern for big kids or tweens except a major spoiler about Charlotte's Web -- make sure your kid has read or seen it first. Some mean boys repeatedly tease Truly and others, and the teacher scolds them, but there are no consequences; still, the situation is resolved satisfactorily. Mild peril from climbing too high is safely resolved.

User Reviews

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Kid, 12 years old March 7, 2016

One of the best books I've ever read

This book is really great. I loved that the story can be related to especially for middle school kids. I also like that the story includes the struggles of her... Continue reading

What's the story?

It's hard enough to be a 12-year-old girl, let alone one who's 6 feet tall and has just moved from Texas to New Hampshire after her father lost an arm on combat duty in Afghanistan. While working after school in the family bookstore, Truly discovers a love letter hidden in the pages of Charlotte's Web with a cryptic, anonymous love note that sets her and her friends on an intriguing scavenger hunt all over town. Meanwhile, a valuable first edition has disappeared from the bookstore, and without the money from selling the book, the Lovejoys might not be able to keep the bookstore open much longer. Can Truly reunite the lost lovers?

Is it any good?

Heather Vogel Frederick's ABSOLUTELY TRULY is a mildly entertaining but flawed mystery. Frederick's strength lies in her well-developed and relatable narrator; in the colorful, busy world of a family-run bookstore; and in an intriguing mystery that keeps the reader guessing as it unfolds. There are two mysteries going on at once: Who stole the autographed first edition of Charlotte's Web, and who left the trail of cryptic love letters? Truly only actively pursues the love-letter mystery, and it's an entertaining investigation that's satisfactorily, although not especially imaginatively, resolved. The resolution of the stolen book is frustrating, though; it's simply not believable, relying on no more than the fact that the perpetrator's a bit odd.

The writing overall is perfunctory and lacks sparkle. The pace often slows to a crawl while Frederick meticulously documents where each member of Truly's large family can be found at the moment (wrestling practice, a play date, in the office) without eliminating suspects or helping the reader get to know minor characters better. And it does seem unforgivable to tell what happens to Charlotte in a book aimed at 8- to 12-year-olds. Still, if your kid already knows about Charlotte, is a voracious reader, and is wondering what being a gawky middle schooler is all about, he or she will enjoy getting to know Truly and following her exploits.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about soldiers returning home after combat duty. Do you know anyone who's served in a war zone? Does Truly's father seem realistic?

  • Lots of books are mentioned in the story. Which have you read? Are there any you haven't read that you'd like to now?

  • Truly's often embarrassed because she's so tall. Should she be? What would you tell her if she were your friend?

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