Okay, so I'm WAY behind in my reviews and I've been sitting on this one for a couple of weeks. Which means I should have told you way before now that this third installment — which brings together Amanda and Leo (of 11 Birthdays) and Rory (of Finally) with soon-to-be 13-year-old Tara — wraps up the series beautifully. And yes, that means we find out the story behind the lady with the duck-shaped birthmark.
Tara's parents have always moved around a lot, what with her mom being a scientist and all. And when Tara finally makes an effort to get "in" with a group of kids at school, she finds herself in trouble for playing part in a prank. Apparently her principal doesn't see the humor in students stealing the school mascot. (It's not like it was a REAL goat, or anything.)
Next thing Tara knows, she's kicked out of school and bumped from accompanying her parents on their summer trip to Madagascar. Instead, she'll be spending the summer with her aunt in Willow Falls, her parents' hometown. Needless to say, Tara's a bit cranky about this.
After a series of mishaps on her journey to Willow Falls, including getting all her spending money stolen, Tara starts making friends but then realizes she can't afford to buy one of them a Bar Mitzvah gift. After getting busted by a familiar face for trying to pawn one of her uncles collectibles for gift money, Tara is forced to work off her mistake by collecting a list of 13 special things. Tara heads out on her over-the-top scavenger hunt with the help of Amanda, Leo and Rory who suspect they know who is behind Tara's new responsibilities.
As all three storylines weave together, fans of this series will no doubt be itching to re-read the first two books to track back the clues Mass left behind. And in her classic style, Mass mixes laugh-out-loud moments with those that leave you misty-eyed for a satisfying (yet bittersweet) conclusion to a must-read middle grade trilogy. For readers 8 and up.