I have been on a contemporary MG binge this year so I took a break for this novel set in the mid 19th century. Filled with Norwegian history and folklore, it also contains some frightening scenes. I won’t provide any spoilers but it would be best to leave this one for upper MG readers.
Folktales are the driving force that make this story interesting and well told. The author notes and glossary are an added bonus and perhaps the place to start would be to read these so you’d have a better understanding of the story elements. Told in a first person POV, it is divided into three parts: THE GOAT FARM; FLIGHT; THE COLUMBUS.
Boys will not be lining up for a copy of this one, but girls who are avid readers might enjoy its depiction of life during that time. It’s harsh and it makes you thankful to live in the modern day world.
PUBLICATION DATE:2014 WORD COUNT: 42,852 READING LEVEL: 5.2
FULL PLOT (From Amazon): In West of the Moon, award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Margi Preus expertly weaves original fiction with myth and folktale to tell the story of Astri, a young Norwegian girl desperate to join her father in America.
After being separated from her sister and sold to a cruel goat farmer, Astri makes a daring escape. She quickly retrieves her little sister, and, armed with a troll treasure, a book of spells and curses, and a possibly magic hairbrush, they set off for America. With a mysterious companion in tow and the malevolent “goatman” in pursuit, the girls head over the Norwegian mountains, through field and forest, and in and out of folktales and dreams as they steadily make their way east of the sun and west of the moon.
FIVE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT WEST OF THE MOON by Margi Preus
- The folktales the MC knows so well are woven into her own story. She plays out each line like it will surely come true. Sadly, many of them do.
- It skillfully demonstrates how normal people can be brought to do terrible things. In the end it shows how forgiveness of yourself and others is the essential part of moving forward.
- I often find reading MG is a repeat experience – same themes told in a different way. I never got that feeling with this title. Surprising and enriching, the tale is one that would probably appeal to adult readers more than their children.
- The bond between Astri and her younger sister, Greta, is touching and one that will have you hoping your own children would have the same relationship.
- The immigrant’s trunk. The contents inside were required to make the long journey across the Atlantic. Apparently these trunks are still tucked away in many Eastern U.S. homes and museums.
FAVORITE LINES: Uncle comes and tucks a wisp of hair behind my ear, almost tenderly. “I’m sorry, Astri,” he says. “It can’t be helped.” That’s all there is for a good-bye, and then out the door I go.
QUOTE FROM AUTHOR: “The story relies heavily on the Norwegian folk and fairy tales my father used to tell in Norwegian (translating into English for us kids as he went along).”
Check the links to other Middle Grade novels over at Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.