Eleven-year-old orphan Arlo’s life with his grandfather has been tricky for some time: Poppo’s memory isn’t what it used to be. The situation worsens after Poppo has a stroke, and Arlo is forced into a children’s shelter. Determined to find his one living relative, a grandmother who hasn’t seen him in nearly a decade, Arlo hops a bus to Edgewater, Va. But his grandmother, Ida, turns out to be pretty “prickly” (“Poppo was in danger. And here Arlo was, 350 miles away, staying with a woman who was supposed to care about him but who seemed to have the heart of an armadillo”). Slowly, Arlo makes a friend—a girl named Maywood—and patches together the history of his fractured family. Meanwhile, a suspicious realtor is aggressively attempting to purchase Ida’s house. In a novel laced with mystery and a hint of the supernatural, picture book author Sullivan (Passing the Music Down) creates a strong small-town atmosphere through Edgewater’s citizens, young and old. A quietly affecting coming-of-age story about finding family and confronting change. Ages 8–12. (Oct.)
There’s no pretension in this simple but deep story... A playful air of mystery hangs over the second half of the novel, and there are even tinges of a good ghost story... Art history buffs will especially appreciate the fact that the final reveal involves a long-lost painting, but the carefully detailed development of a boy learning how to deal with being caught in-between will appeal to a wide range of readers.
—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (starred review)
A quietly affecting coming-of-age story about finding family and confronting change.
Some suspense, much heartache, a few tears, and smiles all tie together nicely in the end to create an outstanding debut novel.
Intriguing... suspenseful... [R]eaders will root for this youngster as he works to create a place he can call home.
Sullivan’s debut novel beautifully balances the big issues in Arlo’s life with his smaller, more immediate concerns: his dog, an adventurous friend, and the magic of a wooden eagle carved by his father. The characters’ race is often left ambiguous, allowing readers to envision for themselves. Filled with heart, this will appeal to fans of Kate DiCamillo’s Because of Winn-Dixie or Eva Ibbotson’s One Dog and His Boy.
This title is actually several books in one. It is the story of a boy and his grandfather dealing with Alzheimer's disease; the story of a boy trying to locate his long-lost family; and an adventure. It is ultimately a ghost story, a mystery uncovered through the world of art history. In her debut work, Sullivan gives the reader vicarious experiences and feelings of the importance of home, the value of true friendship, and the strength of one's convictions.
—Library Media Connection
Sullivan artfully captures Arlo’s feelings of uncertainty and his fervent wish to create a stable home life for himself. Additionally, the author’s handling of Alzheimer’s disease and its devastating effects on families is compelling.
—School Library Journal
[Middle-grade] stories can be so rich, the characters so irresistible, even for an adult reader. So it is with 'All That's Missing' ... which deftly captures the complicated workings of an 11-year-old mind caught between the confidence of youth and the vulnerability of adolescence.
—The Denver Post
It’s rare to find a quiet, reflective middle-grade novel with a boy as the main character, and rarer still to find one this satisfying. ... With touches of magical realism, and a crime caper thrown in for good measure, this gentle book explores how every family has some question nobody wants to answer.
—Cleveland Plain Dealer
After his maternal grandfather and guardian has a stroke, Arlo, an 11-year-old orphan, runs away from impending foster care to the home of his prickly paternal grandmother. In this family-lost-and-found story with a mystery element and a touch of the fantastic, Arlo moves in with his grandmother Ida, who, because of a familial estrangement, is a stranger to him. Despite her crusty demeanor, Ida is not unhappy to see him, and slowly, she and Arlo forge a connection. Ida is the best realized character in the book, more empathetic than her practical and resourceful grandchild, and the pain she tries to conceal under her hardened exterior is palpable. Although the main thrust of the tale involves the making of a family, a second story thread concerns Ida's home. A mysterious man is anxious to buy it--why? How Arlo and his new friend Maywood thwart the buyer, who turns out to be an art thief, rounds out the tale; although this plotline is intriguing and moderately suspenseful, it requires a lengthy setup, and the embedded supernatural element seems tacked on, giving the material a lumpy feel. Still, patient readers will root for this youngster as he works to create a place he can call home. (Fiction. 8-12)
Gr 4–6—For months, orphaned 11-year-old Arlo Jones has been fending for himself while keeping his maternal grandfather's dementia a secret. But when Poppo is sent to the hospital after suffering a stroke, Arlo's future hangs in the balance. Afraid of being placed in foster care, the boy embarks on a furtive journey to track down Ida Jones, the paternal grandmother he's never met. Because of age-old tensions between Poppo and Ida, Arlo feels trepidation at the idea of coming face-to-face with her. Sure enough, Ida is crotchety and delivers several heedless and nasty barbs about her daughter-in-law, Arlo's mother. Perhaps because he has little choice in the matter, Arlo looks beyond his grandmother's initial inappropriateness and gradually realizes that she has his best interests at heart. Despite clichéd secondary characters and a disjointed subplot involving mystery and magic realism, Sullivan artfully captures Arlo's feelings of uncertainty and his fervent wish to create a stable home life for himself. Additionally, the author's handling of Alzheimer's disease and its devastating effects on families is compelling. Recommend to youngsters who appreciate traumatic fiction with positive outcomes, but also steer them to Cynthia Voigt's Homecoming (S & S, 1981), which tackles similar territory far better.—Lalitha Nataraj, Escondido Public Library, CA