Alabama Moon by Watt Key, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble
Alabama Moon
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Alabama Moon

4.4 69
by Watt Key
     
 

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I could trap my own food and make my own clothes. I could find my way by the stars and make fire in the rain. Pap said he even figured I could whip somebody three times my size. He wasn't worried about me.

For as long as ten-year-old Moon can remember, he has lived out in the forest in a shelter with his father. They keep to themselves, their only contact

Overview

I could trap my own food and make my own clothes. I could find my way by the stars and make fire in the rain. Pap said he even figured I could whip somebody three times my size. He wasn't worried about me.

For as long as ten-year-old Moon can remember, he has lived out in the forest in a shelter with his father. They keep to themselves, their only contact with other human beings an occasional trip to the nearest general store. When Moon's father dies, Moon follows his father's last instructions: to travel to Alaska to find others like themselves. But Moon is soon caught and entangled in a world he doesn't know or understand, apparent property of the government he has been avoiding all his life. As the spirited and resourceful Moon encounters constables, jails, institutions, lawyers, true friends, and true enemies, he adapts his wilderness survival skills and learns to survive in the outside world, and even, perhaps, make his home there.

In this compelling, action-packed book, Watt Key gives us the thrilling coming-of-age story of the unique and extremely appealing Moon.

Alabama Moon is a 2007 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Excellent. A terrific choice for reluctant readers.” —Starred, Booklist

“An unusual coming-of-age story.” —The New York Times Book Review

“A winningly fresh look at life and culture almost never seen in children's books.” —The Horn Book

“Key writes honestly about hunting, trapping and the hardships of survival in this rather unusual coming-of-age story.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Well written with a flowing style, plenty of dialogue, and lots of action.” —School Library Journal

“Compelling.” —VOYA

“Absorbing.” —Publishers Weekly

“For boys who dream of unfettered life in the great outdoors . . . Moon's a bona fide hero.” —The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
Ten-year-old Moon Blake has spent most of his life hiding out in the forests of Alabama with his father, a shell-shocked war veteran who clings to conspiracy theories and trusts no one. In his short life, Moon has met fewer people than he can count on one hand. But when his father dies unexpectedly, Moon is forced to make a decision. Should he continue to live a life of solitude, or should he forge his way in the world and give the people he meets the benefit of the doubt?

Moon's father taught him everything about survivalist living. He can make his own clothes, build a shelter, prepare a meal out of roots and berries, and "whip" a man three times his size. But on his own, he quickly finds himself pursued by people who believe he belongs in society and will do almost anything to ensure his capture.

Key's first novel is packed full of near escapes and chase scenes galore, as well as more wilderness lore than you'll find in a Boy Scout manual. As Moon Blake comes of age, readers, too, will ask themselves what it is they believe and how they make decisions about whom they should trust. An amazing tale of a boy forced to make life-changing decisions long before his time, Alabama Moon is an arresting work of fiction for readers of all ages. (Holiday 2006 Selection)
Publishers Weekly
First-time author Key's absorbing survival tale features a 10-year-old hermit, who feels more at home among forest creatures than people. Raised in a primitive shelter deep in the Alabama woods, Moon Blake knows only two people: Pap, a Vietnam veteran holding a grudge against the government, and Mr. Abroscotto, the storekeeper in Gainsville who buys their vegetables and sells them provisions. After Pap dies, Moon fully intends to carry out his father's wishes by finding his way to Alaska, a place where "no one would find him" and "people could still make a living off trapping." But the authorities want to make Moon a ward of the state. During a harrowing cat-and-mouse game against mean-spirited Constable Sanders, Moon gets a taste of society, and he even makes friends during his brief stint at a boys' home, where he carries out an escape plan and brings two boys back to the forest with him. Over time, however, Moon begins to question his father's lifestyle and beliefs, especially when his friend Kit takes ill and is in need of medical attention. Besides offering adventure, the book provides a detailed account of lessons Moon's father has taught him on being self-sufficient. If Moon emerges as too sociable and articulate a character for someone who has grown up in an isolated environment, he remains likable; readers will admire his ability to outwit authority figures. Ages 10-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Moon Blake has been raised by his father to survive on his own and to distrust people. Fearful of the government, Moon and his father live in a shelter in the woods and are almost entirely self-sufficient. When Moon is ten, Pap dies and Moon follows his father's advice to set off for Alaska where he will find more people like himself. Fate intervenes and Moon is thrust into the world where he finds some people he can trust and others he cannot. This novel goes beyond the standard survival story and tells the story of a young boy who can adroitly meet his physical needs on his own but not his emotional needs. Moon is a wonderful character who can do just about anything, and the reader pulls for him to find his place in the world. 2006, Farrar Straus Giroux, Ages 10 to 14.
—Joan Kindig, Ph.D.
VOYA - Mary E. Heslin
It is 1980 and for all his ten years, Moon Blake has lived in the Alabama wilderness with his survivalist father, an antigovernment Vietnam vet. Moon's mother, whom he remembers only as warmth, is buried in a cedar grove near the family's camouflaged habitat. But life is good, and Moon's "pap" teaches him all the self-sufficient skills he needs to live off the land. Pap, however, has not taught Moon to endure loneliness, and when Pap dies of an infection caused by his refusal to get treatment, Moon's pain and his need to find Alaska, where Pap promised he would meet other survivalists, impel Moon into human contact. Moon's Alaskan quest begins, but it is a journey through a world now unmediated to him by Pap's opinions. Along the way, Moon inhabits child detention centers, jails, a wilderness shelter that he builds with other boys, and private homes. He finds a mixed bag of trust, betrayal, kindness, cruelty, stupidity, intelligence, comfort, suffering, enemies and friends. Most important, he learns what he can do alone and what he cannot, or would rather not. Moon is young, but his wise yet naive voice is compelling, and the themes and writing style are geared to older readers. The survival skills portrayed-how to fashion deer sinew into fishing line, for example-will please adventure fans. Moon endures so much that the rosy ending, although a bit contrived, seems fitting and forgivable. This book will make an excellent addition to any public or school library.
KLIATT
Moon Blake, the ten-year-old protagonist of this novel, is like an idiot savant. He's always lived in the wilderness with his anti-government, few-logs-short-of-a-campfire father. His contact with civilization consists of annual trips down from the mountain to trade animal skins for supplies in the village. All their other needs are met by taking advantage of nature's offerings. When the father has an accident he is unwilling to seek medical care, and dies from infection. Moon must bury him and find a way to Alaska where, according to the father, he'll find other people just like them. Moon has no sense of the modern world, geography, or social relationships. His chances of making it to Alaska from Alabama unimpeded are zero. Instead, he runs afoul of a corrupt cop, a boys' home, and a bully, but he makes friends with another orphan. Moon teaches the friend to live in the wilderness, makes friends with the bully, and hides out in a junkyard courtesy of archetypal rednecks with hearts of gold. He even gets to know a rich lawyer. This book is reminiscent of Huck Finn, Hatchet or Far North, perhaps even The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, but it's also completely original. The voice is intriguing, believable in its innocence as Moon looks at the world with fresh eyes. It's also packed with arcane nature lore. Moon learns that the world his father retreated from is black and white and every shade of gray. There are no easy answers to how to survive in such a world, but, for certain, Moon will find a way. KLIATT Codes: JS*--Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2006, Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 294p., $17.00.. Ages 12 to 18.
—MyrnaMarler
KLIATT - Myrna Marler
To quote the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, September 2006: Moon Blake, the ten-year-old protagonist of this novel, is like an idiot savant. He's always lived in the wilderness with his anti-government, few-logs-short-of-a-campfire father. His contact with civilization consists of annual trips down from the mountain to trade animal skins for supplies in the village. All their other needs are met by taking advantage of nature's offerings. When the father has an accident he is unwilling to seek medical care, and dies from infection. Moon must bury him and find a way to Alaska where, according to the father, he'll find other people just like them. Moon has no sense of the modern world, geography, or social relationships. His chances of making it to Alaska from Alabama unimpeded are zero. Instead, he runs afoul of a corrupt cop, a boys' home, and a bully, but he makes friends with another orphan. Moon teaches the friend to live in the wilderness, makes friends with the bully, and hides out in a junkyard courtesy of archetypal rednecks with hearts of gold. He even gets to know a rich lawyer. This book is reminiscent of Huck Finn, Hatchet or Far North, perhaps even The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, but it's also completely original. The voice is intriguing, believable in its innocence as Moon looks at the world with fresh eyes. It's also packed with arcane nature lore. Moon learns that the world his father retreated from is black and white and every shade of gray. There are no easy answers to how to survive in such a world, but, for certain, Moon will find a way. (An ALA Best Book for YAs.) Reviewer: Myrna Marler
School Library Journal
Gr 6-8-Moon, 10, has spent most of his life in a camouflaged shelter in the forest with his father, a Vietnam veteran who distrusts people and the government. Pap has educated him in both academics and survival skills. His life suddenly changes when the land is sold to a lawyer and his father dies. The lawyer discovers him and, believing what he is doing is best for the child, turns him over to Mr. Gene from the local boys' home. When Moon escapes, Mr. Gene alerts the constable, an emotionally unstable bully who becomes obsessed with capturing him. Once at the home, though, Moon makes his first real friends and learns what friendship is all about. Much of the story revolves around multiple chases, captures, and escapes. The ending might be a bit too perfect, but it is a happy one for Moon. The book is well written with a flowing style, plenty of dialogue, and lots of action. The characters are well drawn and three-dimensional, except for the constable-but then, maybe that's all there is to him. Even those who knew him as a child have nothing good to say about him. The language is in keeping with the characters' personalities and the situations. Although Moon is only 10, older readers will also enjoy the book and will better understand the adults' perspectives.-Nancy P. Reeder, Heathwood Hall Episcopal School, Columbia, SC Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
All his life, Moon Blake has lived with his reclusive father, Oliver, on a remote tract of land in the woods surviving only on what they trap and grow. Soon after Moon turns ten, his father dies, leaving Moon to fend for himself. Before dying, Oliver instructs Moon to go to Alaska where he'll find people just like them. Instead, Moon is taken and placed in a boys' home where he loves having friends, but cannot bear being confined. Moon runs away with two boys, Kit and Hal, to the woods, where they live wild and free, evading capture, until Kit needs serious medical attention. Alone again, Moon begins to question his father's lifestyle. With help from a friend, Moon is united with a paternal uncle he never knew he had and is ready to live in a house, sleep on a bed and eager to be a part of a loving family. Key writes honestly about hunting, trapping and the hardships of survival in this rather unusual coming-of-age story. (Fiction. 10-14)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780374301842
Publisher:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
09/05/2006
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
6.16(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.15(d)
Lexile:
720L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt

1

Just before Pap died, he told me that I'd be fine as long as I never depended on anybody but myself. He said I might feel lonely for a while, but that would go away. I was ten years old and he'd taught me everything I needed to know about living out in the forest. I could trap my own food and make my own clothes. I could find my way by the stars and make fire in the rain. Pap said he even figured I could whip somebody three times my size. He wasn't worried about me.

It took me most of a morning to get him into the wheelbarrow and haul him to the cedar grove on the bluff. I buried him next to Momma where you could see the Noxubee River flowing coffee-colored down below. It was mid-January and the wind pulled at my hair and gray clouds slid through the trees and left the forest dripping. I felt the loneliness he'd told me about crawling up from my stomach and into my throat.

I didn't put a cross on the grave. I never knew Pap to believe in things like that. The only way you could make out Momma's grave was the ground that was sunk in over her and 1972 scratched on a limestone rock nearby. I don't remember her face, but I remember somebody else in the bed at night, keeping me warm from the other side. Pap said she reminded him of a yellow finch, which is how she stays in my mind.

I found a rock for Pap and scratched 1980 on it with a nail. After placing it beside the dirt mound, I put the shovel in the wheelbarrow and started back for the shelter. The cedar grove trail was the only one we used enough to wear our tracks into it. It was worn like a cow path from years of walking it with Pap. Not only did he like to come see Momma up on the bluff, but we used it as a main trail to check the northeast trap lines. It had been almost a week since I'd run any of them because I hadn't wanted to leave Pap's side. I was sure the traps were tangled in the creeks, and it only made the sickness in my stomach worse to think that whatever was in them was most likely dead.

Pap had tried to explain death to me, but I couldn't make sense of it. Pap said you passed on and came back as something else. It could be a squirrel or a coon. It could be a fish or an Eskimo. There was no way to tell. The most confusing part of what he told me was that even though he would come back as something else, there would still be a part of the old him that floated around like smoke. This part of him would watch out for me. I couldn't talk to this thing or touch it, but I could write to it. I could make my letters and then burn them, and the smoke would carry my message to him.

When I got back to the shelter, I put the wheelbarrow and the shovel away and went inside. I took off my deerskin jacket and hat, lay down on the pile of hides that we hadn't been able to sell, and stared at the roots in the ceiling. There was always a lot of work to do and no time to rest. But now Pap was dead and things were not the same. I thought about death again. Most things he told me made sense real quick. You boil steel traps to get the scent off. You overlap palmetto roofing so the rain slides down it. You soak a deerskin for two days and it comes out with two days of softness to it. I could understand these things. But what he said about dying and the smoky messages and his hate for government-they were the hardest ideas for me to understand.

He'd said the government was after us ever since I could remember. The shelter we lived in was set miles into a forest owned by a paper company and was a place no person besides us had any cause to be. Even had someone come by, he would have to just about run into our shelter before he noticed anything unusual. It was one small room built halfway into the ground with low ceilings so that Pap had to stoop to walk inside. The roof was covered with dirt, and bushes and trees grew from the top. Over time tree roots had come down into the shelter and twisted through the logs and made their way into the ground at the edges. Everything that showed above ground was from nature. Even the stovepipe sticking up through the ceiling was encased in limestone.

We practiced with our rifles three times a week. Our windows were narrow slits for shooting through and the trees that you saw out of these windows were pocked and chipped from years of Pap and me practicing a stage-one defense. In stage two we moved into the hole at the back side of the shelter where a muddy tunnel led to the box. The box was about a quarter the size of our shelter and made of steel sheets that Pap took from an old barn. An air pipe went up through the ground and was hidden inside a tree stump. Pap said if we ever moved to stage two, we'd cave the tunnel in behind us. We had dried food and water in the box that would last for a week or more. Pap said a stage two would be hard, but the box was made to keep people alive when things got really bad.

"It would be a while before they'd find us," he'd said.

There were no power lines or roads nearby. Except for the path to the cedar grove, we switched our trails every week so we wouldn't wear our tracks into the ground. We made most of our fires in the woodstove to hide the flame. If we had to make a fire outside, we used the driest wood we could find to cut down on the smoke. We couldn't carry anything shiny in the bright sun in case a plane caught the reflection. Our knife blades kept a thin coat of rust on them for that very purpose.

Pap even went so far as to sneak up on his game from the south so that the sound from the rifle shot would be aimed down into the river bottom.

From my place on the hide pile I could hear the birds through the small window slit as the forest grew dark outside. I was used to paying extra attention to the lateafternoon and night sounds. Pap said if the government was coming for us, that's when they'd come. He got nervous and quiet when the sun started dropping.

He liked to sit inside the shelter and work on chores that didn't make noise. The two of us sewed, whittled, scraped hides, and repaired traps while we studied the forest sounds. But I didn't do any of these things the afternoon after Pap died. I couldn't. I just balled up like a squirrel and cried.

Excerpt from ALABAMA MOON by Watt Key. Copyright © 2006 by Watt Key. Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC in 2006. All rights reserved. Visitors to this web site are warned that this work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.

Meet the Author

Albert Watkins Key, Jr., publishing under the name Watt Key, is an award-winning southern fiction author. He grew up and currently lives in southern Alabama with his wife and family. Watt spent much of his childhood hunting and fishing the forests of Alabama, which inspired his debut novel, Alabama Moon, published to national acclaim in 2006. Alabama Moon won the 2007 E.B. White Read-Aloud Award and has been translated in seven languages. Key's second novel, Dirt Road Home, was published in 2010.

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