Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Effie Starr Zook Has One More Question

Effie Starr Zook Has One More Question

Martha Freeman
For ages 9 to 12
Simon and Schuster, 2017   ISBN: 978-1481472647

Effie’s parents have decided that they are going to fly around the world in a solar plane that her mother designed and, more to the point, they have decided that Effie cannot go with them on their journey. Effie’s mother explains that the trip to is going to be “Too dangerous” for Effie, which Effie does not consider to be an acceptable response at all. Usually Effie is able to get her way with her parents, but this is not what happens on this occasion. Effie’s mother drives her daughter to her aunt and uncle’s farm in the Pennsylvanian countryside, and Effie resigns herself to having a very boring summer.

Effie is not there long before interesting things start to happen. One morning two children, E.J. and Moriah Yoder, come over to challenge George, the Zook family goat. Effie would like to spend more time with the two kids, but Moriah says that “something happened a long time ago” and therefore their families do not get along.

Effie chooses to ignore this piece of information an she goes over to the Yoder’s house. She is treated kindly but it is made clear to her that she is not welcome there. Mr. Yoder drives Effie home, and later Effie talks about Mr. Yoder with her aunt and uncle. Apparently the man belongs to a sect of some sort, which is called Beards for America (BFA). BFA was inspired by some ideas put forth by Effie’s own great-grandfather, Gus Zook. Gus was a “great man” whose invention of a barf bag has made Effie’s family very well off. How can it be that something Gus Zook said led to Mr. Yoder creating the BFA with all its rules and “precepts?”

Effie’s aunt and uncle go on to explain that there is “bad blood” between the Yoders and the Zooks. Naturally, Effie wants to know what the original disagreement that caused this schism between the families was about, but her aunt and uncle dodge her questions.

Many people would just give up at this point, but Effie has questions and she expects people to answer them. Seeking out something to do, Effie goes to town on her new bike and there she gets to know the man who owns Sadie’s, the local bookstore. There she finds out more clues about her family’s past, none of which seem to make any sense. What do all the pieces of information she has “add up to, anyway?”

One day Moriah turns up at the bookshop and the two girls cannot help talking to one another, even though Mr. Yoder does not want his daughter to spend time with Zooks. The girls feel as if they are stuck between their two families, and they don’t even know why. It is time for Effie to step up her efforts to get some answers.

This delightfully sweet and often funny story introduces us to a girl who is constantly asking questions. When she is presented with a family secret she sets about trying to unravel it, and what she discovers rocks her world. Effie sees first hand that keeping secrets, even really old ones, really is not a good idea at all.