Lost Kites and Other Treasures by Cathy Carr (Amulet Books, February 2024) addresses anxiety and other mental illness with a middle-school story featuring Franny, who escapes to making creative “found” art when things start to feel overwhelming. Although Franny tries not to think about her absent mother and the traumas of her early life (after all, life with Nana is fine), when Nana has an accident and Franny’s uncle enters her life, Franny begins to face the realities of who her mother is and why she is not in Franny’s life.
The “lost kite” of the title is a worn out plastic kite Franny finds in the very first scene. She claims it for a future art project, where she will make it into a meaningful piece of art. Her art an outlet that helps her deal with her anxiety. But things radically change and Franny must face real issues head on. Nana’s broken leg takes them to a new temporary home and now Franny must step up as a helper. She must learn to work through problems. Franny’s uncle comes to help too. Franny and her Nana have always avoided discussing Franny’s mother, but Uncle Gabe’s presence means that the long-held secrets about her mother come to light and the family must have difficult conversations. Can Franny be stronger than her mother? Can she learn to deal with her mental illness in a healthy way?
Although Franny’s emotional challenges seem limited to severe anxiety and dealing with some residual trauma from her early years, Franny’s fear that she will develop issues like her mother’s drives her to seek help from friends and to find strength within herself. The “other treasures” as mentioned in the title are, I believe, the events in life, both good and bad, that can become beautiful and creative moments, even as her found items can become beautiful and creative art pieces, worthy of the art show.
Lost Kites and Other Treasures addresses some key aspects of mental illness, including overcoming the taboo of discussing them. Although it is not the most remarkable book addressing these issues, this middle grade novel will be a great fit for middle schoolers looking for a book about a creative tween coming into her own while dealing with such anxiety. It’s so important that mental health issues are normalized.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advance review copy of this book provided by the publisher via NetGalley. All thoughts and opinions are my own.