Thursday, April 2, 2009

Middle-Grade Review: Alabama Moon

Even though our sons are now 11 and 14 years old, we still love to read aloud as a family. The book we finished this week, Alabama Moon by Watt Key, ranks as one of our all-time favorites!

Ten-year old Moon has been brought up by his father, known as Pap, deep in the woods of Alabama, with little contact with other people or the outside world. Pap has a deep mistrust of the government and raised Moon on his own in their forest shelter ever since Moon’s Mom died.

When Pap dies suddenly, Moon is left on his own. His Pap taught him how to live in the woods independently and told Moon before he died that he should make his way to Alaska to find others like themselves. So, although he’s not sure exactly where Alaska is, Moon sets out to find it. But the outside world doesn’t approve of a 10-year old boy living and traveling on his own, and, before he knows what’s happened, Moon is in the midst of all sorts of trouble.

This book has all the elements of a great story: adventure, suspense, humor, and plenty of heart. Moon is a very likable character with amazing wilderness survival skills, but he’s completely unprepared to deal with constables, jail, orphanages, and lawyers. He makes some friends along the way, as he tries to figure out where he belongs in the world. Here, some of the other boys at the orphanage ask Moon about himself:

“They’ve got you all over the TV. We watched it in the rec room. They said you beat up a constable.”
“I didn’t beat him up good enough. He still got me. Threw my wheelbarrow in the swamp. Threw my hat in the road. Took my rifle and all my livin’ stuff.”
“Do you really live in a cave?” another boy asked me.
“No, it’s a shelter that’s built low to the ground.”
“What did you eat out there?”
“Coons and deer and stuff we grew. Things that came out of the forest.”
“Did you have to go to school?”
I shook my head. “Pap got me some books. I learned with him.”
“Can you read?”
“Yeah. Morse code, too.”
“They gonna take you to jail, or you stayin’ here?”
“I’m gonna bust out as soon as I find a way.”

The details of how Moon survives on his own in the forest are fascinating, and his escapades with the law are exciting and suspenseful. Moon is one of our favorite characters we’ve ever encountered in a book – spirited and independent but also kind-hearted. You’ll be rooting for Moon to find what he’s looking for: a place to belong.


Amy Nielson said...

Matthew just finished this book and loved it. They watched the movie at school, too!

Sue Jackson said...

This is one of our all-time favorites, Amy, even now many years after we read it! You should hear it read by Ken - he brought his best Oklahoma twang to the Alabama accents!