Classic elements of gothic literature combine in Michelle Chalfoun’s delightful first book for middle grade readers, as a girl moves to a new part of the country and encounters a mostly empty mansion, a dying old man and a secret treasure map.
Maria Mamoun spends most of her days alone, reading or watching TV when she’s not in school. She doesn’t complain about missing her overworked, single mom. She doesn’t complain when bullied by a girl gang in her Bronx neighborhood, either. However, when things get really nasty, her mother makes the decision to uproot them both, and Maria finds herself like a fish out of water living on an island in New England.
With her usual good spirits, she befriends the elderly gentleman her mother cares for, and he gives her tantalizing hints about an old sea captain and his buried treasure. When Maria finds a treasure map in the rafters of the cottage where she and her mother live, Maria dreams of finding the treasure so she and her mother will never have to leave the shore Maria has come to love.
Soon Maria transforms her dreams into action. She befriends a troubled boy, and together they figure out the mystery of the map and plot to sneak out at night when a clue will be visible in the sky. Maria’s overwhelming desire to find the treasure clouds her judgement, and she makes poor moral choices because of it. The Treasure of Maria Mamoun eventually reveals exactly what is most treasured.