Twelve-year-old Ellie Jane Wilkins thinks she’ll spend the summer of 1955 swimming down at the creek and running away from her makeup-loving mama. Nothing ever changes in Plainsworth. However, things get a whole lot more interesting when the local beauty queen goes missing. Then there’s that suspicious fire on up at Shanty Town. The law wants to sweep it under the rug, and everybody’s acting stranger than usual. Even Ellie Jane’s best friend, T.J., is keeping secrets from her. You can bet your biscuits that makes her spitting mad.
So Ellie Jane decides to do a little investigating of her own. Trouble is, Plainsworth ain’t just any small town, and somebody wants to keep her from revealing one of its darkest secrets. Now Ellie Jane isn’t just fighting to figure out what happened to Miss Muncie, she’s fighting to save her own life.
ONE MISSED SUMMER is a 46,000-word middle grade mystery combining a Southern Nancy Drew with the darkness of Agatha Christie, and it will appeal to fans of Sheila Turnage.
Mama stands with the rest of the women jawin’ about Miss Muncie and how she’s run off again. But I guess it’s a bigger deal now since they all thought she was staying this time.
Their gloved hands flap around their heads like white doves. If Mama jumps around anymore, she’s liable to tip into the old gazebo built way on back in 1910. That thing’s so rickety it’ll fall flat in a second. Then the town square will be one big blank piece of dirt and grass.
I bet they’re madder about the missing tiara for the Plainsworth Princess Pageant than Miss Muncie’s being gone. I giggle. I saw the Mayor’s hound, Old Gus, take off with the tiara a while ago. By now, I bet it’s completely covered in dog drool. Good. I couldn’t care less about some dumb old pageant. Give me fishing down by the creek or a game of war any old day.
“Where do you think she’s gone?” T.J. asks me, his mouth full of peach cobbler. A few crumbs spray across the table.
His coonskin cap slips to one side, and he rights it. I wish I could wear one of those caps, but Mama says it ain’t proper. Anyway, The T is for Thomas and the J is for Joseph. He’s been my best friend since we moved here.
The race riots drove my family clear out of Alabama and into Georgia back when I was little. Old podunk Plainsworth. Where a body can die of boredom. No lie. I heard some boy named Alex Brass died in the 1800s because there was nothing for him to do here. Just keeled over in front of a butter churn.
“Why you asking Ellie Jane? She’s not into them pageants,” Lou Reed sniffs, wiping his nose on the cuff of his checkered shirt. Know-it-all. I shoot him a scowl, and he has the good sense to shut his trap. Just wait ‘till I get him to the creek, I’ll hold him down so long…It don’t matter if I’m wearing a skirt—I can still lick him good.
T.J. scratches his head. “I reckoned she might know. She is a girl.”
I wish I had the answer. Miss Muncie is kind of my hero. She lied and told Mama there weren't any more applications for the pageant because she knew I’d sooner cut off my arm than wear one of them lacy dresses. And seeing as how she’s the reigning beauty queen for the whole of Saskataw County, Mama believed her. But now Miss Muncie won’t be around to help me fight off Mama and her Ravishing Rose cheek paint. No one will. Mama’ll have me powdered and primped before the sun sets if she has her way.
A shiver of dread races down my back at the thought.