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Posted December 19, 2014
Posted November 30, 2012
It¿s been so long since I was head-over-heels for a children¿s n
It’s been so long since I was head-over-heels for a children’s novel that I was beginning to think the problem wasn’t the books but me becoming old and bitter.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Then I read “Summer on the Moon” by Adrian Fogelin, and – what a relief! It turns out I’m fine, and the books were the problem after all.
The opening of “Summer on the Moon” illustrates its high originality, grit and authenticity. Just released for the summer, middle schoolers Socko (short for Socrates) and Damien come home to their seedy Florida apartment building and avail themselves of their “personal amusement park ride,” an ancient elevator, which they call The Hurtler.
To play, you ride to the top and punch all the buttons, which makes the elevator malfunction and drop-drop-drop until – just as death seems imminent – you hit the “open door” button, causing the elevator to brake with a heart-wrenching jerk.
I don’t know if it’s possible to use an elevator this way or not (readers, please don’t try this at home!) but Fogelin depicts The Hurtler convincingly just as she does the cockroaches, gang members, and drug-addled parents that inhabit Damien and Socko’s grim and dangerous world.
But then a near miracle occurs. Socko’s widowed, disabled grandfather offers to buy him and his mom a house if in exchange they will take him in and take care of him. Mom, who works at a fast-food joint, jumps at the chance, and soon the family leaves Damien behind and moves into a beautiful new house in Moon Ridge Estates, a gated subdivision where all the other houses are vacant.
In a nice, timely touch, Moon Ridge Estates is bankrupt, and the developer, nearly bankrupt himself, moves in with his family across the street. The family includes an attractive formerly rich girl Socko’s age, Livvy.
No surprise that Socko feels a romantic attraction – his first – to Livvy, or that Socko’s grandfather turns out to be a curmudgeon with a heart of gold. What distinguishes the book for me is the authenticity of the detail as well as Fogelin’s effective use of hard-working metaphors that further the plot and also make sense in the context of Socko’s world.
Besides The Hurtler, there’s the moonscape that is Moon Ridge Estates. Pivotal plot points take place in an empty swimming pool and the unfinished skeleton of a house.
The emotional heart of the book is not Socko’s relationship with Livvy but his distress at leaving Damien to fend for himself in the mean streets of the old hood. “Summer on the Moon” is timely and literary and deals with serious social issues, but it’s also a total page-turner and at times very funny. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Newbery Committee members – are you listening?