Friday, February 7, 2014

Review: What The Moon Said by Gayle Rosengren

What The Moon Said is the story of a family who must find a way to survive in the wake of The Great Depression. Set in Chicago, 1930, the story starts out with Ester’s father losing his job. I love the setting in the beginning-- images of the buildings and town cars, the radio being the center of the family’s entertainment, the theater showing Rin Tin Tin.

(Funny, I totally didn’t picture it in black and white! J)

Unable to pay rent in the city now, the family takes their savings and they buy a farm where they can support themselves (food being the main issue). I was actually a little disappointed when they move away from Chicago because it’s such a cool place.  The farm is shabby and more than a little scary. Soon, with the animals (including a dog!), the raspberry picking and the new friends, Chicago is all but forgotten.

But this story, it isn’t really *about* the farm or the Great Depression. It’s about Ester, and more importantly, her mother. You see Ester isn’t sure if her mother really loves her, because she doesn’t hug her the way her friend’s mom hugs. That’s what real love is, right? So Ester sets out to do anything and everything she can make her mother love her.

Overall score: 4 stars

This story is sweet with such a fun setting and some really fascinating historical aspects.

And honestly, of everything in the book though, the best aspect is character. Ester is the kind of character you’ll want to curl up with and she will definitely stick with you after you set the book down.  She’s sweet, hopefully and very determined.

But it’s a quiet story, even a little slow at times. I never get tired of Ester, but I do wish that there was a bigger plot line, that Ester could have done something to help her family (more than the 1.50 she makes selling nuts).  I don’t expect the nine year old girl to save the farm, but I wish she’d done something fulfilling for the whole family-- Something big and fun, even if it didn’t work out all the way.  I don’t mind a bitter sweet ending, just as long as we get some fun in the meantime (and as long as things end hopeful enough, which is definitely the case for What The Moon Said).

I’m happy with this book. I enjoyed it and love the historical relevance. It’s the kind of book I imagine reading to my children before bedtime, explaining some of the little things about the United States during that time period “Yes! That really happened!” (remember my post about MGers love to learn things without being “taught”. Yeah, this book totally does that). It’ll be one that sits on my shelf, waiting for the day I can read it and learn alongside my future children.

What The Moon Said by Gayle Rosengren is coming from Putnam Young Readers Group  on Feb 20 so check it out and let me know what you think!

Kirkus -- "Sensitive and tender."
Booklist -- "...heartwarming story...engaging historical fiction"
Publishers Weekly -- "...Esther makes the most of each day, asks little, and gives much."


Leandra Wallace said...

What a gorgeous cover! Another MG for the TBR pile!

Anonymous said...

What the Moon Said is an absolutely terrific Middle Grade historical fiction book, with one of the best main characters, vibrant & lovable Esther, in recent Middle Grade literature. And so skillfully written, with just the right voice for someone of Esther's age, a perfect structure (flows seamlessly from scene to scene, chapter to chapter), and truly beautiful use of language. A great mother-daughter relationship book. Also, because it is written so well and at an age-appropriate level for Middle Grade minds, would be an excellent read out-loud book for home or the classroom. Teachers & Librarians will love this book, both as a teaching tool and as recommended reading. Terrific book. Not slow at all---it's about life and it's vibrant and it's perfectly tuned into the minds & sensibilities & capabilities of Middle Grade readers, ages 8 to 12