How High the Moon

How High the Moon

4.3 30
by Sandra Kring

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In this tender novel set in 1955 Mill Town, Wisconsin, Sandra Kring explores the complicated bond between mothers and daughters, the pressure to conform, and the meaning of friendship and family.
Ten-year-old Isabella “Teaspoon” Marlene has been a handful ever since her mother, Catty, dumped her with an old boyfriend and ran off to

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In this tender novel set in 1955 Mill Town, Wisconsin, Sandra Kring explores the complicated bond between mothers and daughters, the pressure to conform, and the meaning of friendship and family.
Ten-year-old Isabella “Teaspoon” Marlene has been a handful ever since her mother, Catty, dumped her with an old boyfriend and ran off to Hollywood. Teaspoon fights, fibs, never stops singing, and is as unpredictable and fearless as a puppy off its leash. Still, Teddy Favors, a man who has taken his share of kicks, is determined to raise her right. 
Teaspoon wants to be better for Teddy—even if that means agreeing to take part in a do-gooder mentorship program and being paired up with Brenda Bloom, the beautiful reigning Sweetheart of Mill Town. Against all odds, as the summer passes, this unlikely duo discover a special friendship as they face personal challenges, determined to follow their hearts instead of convention.

It’s while Brenda and Teaspoon are putting together the grandest show the Starlight Theater has ever seen that Catty returns to Mill Town, shattering illusions and testing loyalties. But by the final curtain call, one determined little girl shows an entire town the healing that can happen when you let your heart take center stage.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The summer of 1955 is a tough one for 10-year-old ragamuffin Isabella, nicknamed Teaspoon, who's been enlisted into a Big Sister-style program that's supposed to teach her civilized behavior. Five years earlier, Teaspoon's mother took off for Hollywood, leaving her boyfriend, Teddy, and her daughter to take care of each other; now a full-fledged tomboy, Teaspoon is paired in the program with popular 18-year-old Brenda Bloom, whose mother owns the movie theater in their suburban Milwaukee town. Sketched with nostalgic sweetness, this hard-luck coming-of-age story sees Teaspoon discovering her talent for singing while getting caught up in plans for the theater's gala re-opening, her mother's promised return, Teddy's budding relationship with Sunday school teacher Miss Tuckle, and Brenda's romantic dilemmas. Kring (The Book of Bright Ideas) gives her young, put-upon protagonist an authentically weary voice, but telegraphs her plot revelations, provoking little emotion beyond the mildly touching. Though the chatterbox heroine makes an engaging narrator, readers may be reminded more of Dennis the Menace than Anne of Green Gables. (May)
From the Publisher
"Your heart, like mine, will go out to irrepressible Teaspoon in this bittersweet story of a young girl and her dreams, with a grand-slam ending. In this one, Sandra Kring hangs the moon." —Sandra Dallas, author of Tallgrass and Prayers for Sale
"How High the Moon is flat out endearing. It’s about love, and life, and the mess we make of both. It’s about secrets, friendships, loyalty, hope, pain, betrayals, creating our own family, and the beautiful music we can hear in our hearts if we pause, for just a moment, to listen." —Cathy Lamb, author of Julia’s Chocolates and Henry’s Sisters

"Sandra Kring never fails to impress me. I can't get enough of her humor and poignant characterizations. How High the Moon is a winner!"—Lesley Kagen,  author of Whistling in the Dark and Land of a Hundred Wonders

Library Journal
It's 1955 small-town Wisconsin, and precocious Isabella “Teaspoon” Marlene is ten years old. She lives with her mother's boyfriend, Teddy, after her mother ran away to Hollywood to become famous, but she can't concentrate on school because she wants to follow in her mother's footsteps and be a star. Various adults intervene and set Teaspoon up in the “Sunshine Sisters” program, where older teens mentor the younger girls. Lucky for Teaspoon, she gets paired with the most glamorous girl in town, whose family also owns the local theater. VERDICT Kring's fourth novel (Thank You for All Things) is nostalgic and charming and will appeal to readers who enjoy coming-of-age tales. [Library marketing; ebook ISBN 978-0-553-90758-2.]

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Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)

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Chapter One

I was sitting at my desk, second seat back in the row by the window, staring outside watching jump ropes twirl and kids chase one another across the playground. The sounds of thumping red rubber balls and excited voices floating in through the rectangle screens were nothing but a big fat tease, though, because I couldn’t go out for recess. Again. I had to sit at my stupid desk and twiddle my thumbs while Mrs. Carlton, my fifth-grade teacher, corrected papers and ignored me, even though I was baking like a potato in the sun.

I was supposed to be working on my English assignment, but I hadn’t gotten farther than writing the date—May 13, 1955—at the top of my paper. I knew that was about all the farther I’d get, too, because I was supposed to write about Moby-Dick, and I didn’t even know who the guy was. I wasn’t really listening when Mrs. Carlton read us a chapter after recess for about a bajillion days in a row. I could see the book cover in my head, though, and it had a big fish on it, so I was thinking Moby-Dick might be that guy who got swallowed by a whale and became a rib bone in the story that Miss Tuckle, the Sunday school teacher, told us. But I wasn’t sure because I wasn’t exactly listening then, either.

“Isabella . . . your paper . . . ,” Mrs. Carlton said, and I turned away from the window.

“I can’t concentrate with all that yelling and laughing going on outside,” I told her.

“Try,” she said, without looking up.

“Plus,” I added, “I’m about melting to death. These windows are working like a magnifying glass. I’m not kidding. It’s so hot on my arm that I think I might start on fire. That can happen, you know. Jack Jackson started a grass fire in his backyard using a magnifying glass, and Johnny, his big brother, had to put it out with a blanket. I have very dry skin, Mrs. Carlton.”

She looked up at me and sighed, her lips painted big and red like Lucille Ball’s, and said, “Then take a seat over there.” She pointed to the first desk on the other side of the room. The one closest to the door.

Me and my big mouth!

I didn’t have a thing to do but hum and think about how hungry I was. After recess we still had to have math and reading class before it was lunchtime.

I thought about the ice cream we were going to have for dessert, and the next thing I knew, my mind was scooting off to the drugstore to remember the best strawberry sundae I ever had.

I guess you could say that I got that sundae because of Ma. All because one night while I was still in kindergarten, she came and sat on my bed, the stink of smoke and booze from The Dusty Rose still clinging to her auburn curls, and she said, “I gotta go, kid. I’ve got dreams to chase.” Then she walked out. Just like that. Leaving nothing behind but me, a sinkful of dirty dishes, a pair of elbow-length gloves still in their box, and Teddy, her boyfriend of a year, bawling on the arms of his ratty work shirt.

After Ma left, Teddy tried to help me stop missing her so badly. He was sweet as sugar at first, hugging me when I cried and playing with me when I was lonely. But when a few days went by and I still wasn’t eating more than a sick mouse, he got downright bossy.

“Teaspoon, I know you miss your Ma. I do, too,” Teddy said. “But you’ve got to start eating again, even if you don’t have an appetite.” He put a plate of scrambled eggs and a cup of milk in front of me and told me I had to get them down. “If you don’t, you’re going to make yourself sick.”

I didn’t know people could make themselves sick by not eating, but I sure was glad to hear it! When we were living above the bar in Peoria, Ma left me with a lady down the hall, and on the third day I got so sick that I puked on her quilt and her cat. She somehow got ahold of Ma and told her to come get me. So when Teddy told me I would get sick if I didn’t eat, I decided that it was a good plan. I slid my plate away and crossed my arms, and said I wasn’t going to eat for nothing. Teddy swayed on his feet a bit, then he planted his boots on the floor and cleared his throat and said, “Isabella Marlene, if you don’t eat, I’m going to have to punish you.”

Maybe it was Teddy’s scrambled-egg-soft voice, or the way he couldn’t set his chin when he gave an order because he didn’t really have one to set in the first place, but whatever it was, his warning didn’t scare me. It only grated on my nerves like a skeeto bite itch. So I crossed my arms and I said, “I hope I do get sick, because then you’ll have to call my ma and she’ll come and get me.”

Teddy’s squished-back chin quivered a little, and he put his hand on the top of my head. “Teaspoon, your Ma wouldn’t even know it if you got good and sick, because I don’t know where she is to tell her.” He looked down at me, and there was water in his eyes. “It’s just you and me now,” he said. “Teaspoon and Teddy. And I’m not going to let you get sick.”

My arm came up to hide my eyes when he said that, because I started crying and I didn’t want Teddy to see. He hugged me to his leg and stroked my dark curls. And when my tears turned to hiccups, he took me to the drugstore and bought us both a strawberry sundae for supper. While we were there, somebody popped a quarter into the jukebox and played Teresa Brewer’s “Music! Music! Music!” and just like that my toes got light enough to tap (even if all they could tap was air, since my legs were dangling off the bar stool), and I started singing along with that snappy tune: All I want is having you, and music, music, music! Teddy didn’t even tell me to stop singing because I was in public and had a mouthful. He just put another coin in the jukebox and asked me what else I wanted to hear. Course, I knew that that would be the last time Teddy’d ever let me sing at the table or with food in my mouth without harping, and so far, I was right.

“Isabella. Stop daydreaming and get to your paper,” Mrs. Carlton said, not in a very friendly tone, either, and the memory of that sundae melted right off my tongue.

I picked up my pencil and poked the lead between my two front teeth as I tried to think about what to write, wishing I hadn’t thought about strawberry sundaes because it made me start thinking about how sad I was when Ma left. I didn’t like thinking about that, so instead I tried to think about how pretty she was. How good she could sing. How nice she smelled. I didn’t have much luck, though, because the truth of the matter was, by the time I was eight years old most of the pictures of her I had in my head had dried like spilled milk nobody sopped up, and they flaked away. I had six stupid miniature plastic baby dolls to thank for that.

I got those dumb things and that little pink crib to put them in at Ben Franklin, and all I did in the days right before Ma left was sit on the floor and play with those dolls. I should have been looking at Ma instead, because after she was gone for about a year or so, when I tried to see her all I saw were those dolls—naked and pink like newborn hamsters, two blue dots for eyes painted crooked on their faces, seams running along their sides.

Sure, sometimes I tried to talk to her when her bath was done and she was sitting under that helmet drying her rollers and paging through movie magazines, but she couldn’t hear me with that hair dryer whizzing in her ears, so I just went back to playing, bouncing those dolls in the plops of water Ma dropped on the floor when she stepped out of the tub because those were their mud puddles.

I let everyone believe that I still remembered Ma well—how she looked, the sound of her voice, the way her skin smelled—but the truth of the matter was, I wasn’t sure I remembered her right anymore at all, because when I thought of her, her face looked suspiciously like Glinda’s, the good witch from The Wizard of Oz. And when I thought of her singing voice, it sounded an awful lot like Teresa Brewer’s. Even when I thought I was remembering her smell, I’m not sure if it was her smell I was remembering, or the perfume of Mrs. Fry’s peonies in summer.

It didn’t matter, though, I told myself. One day soon I was going to be watching a movie at the Starlight Theater and Ma was going to come on that screen and I’d take one look at her face and remember her as though I’d never forgotten her. And then I’d know that she’d be coming home to Teddy and me soon, because the way I saw it, chasing your dream was like winning a race at the last day of school picnic, and once you crossed the finish line the winner, there wasn’t nothing more to do but pick a prize out of the basket and head home.

And wouldn’t it be a happy day when Ma came back! For me, and for Teddy, who I knew missed not only her but his Oldsmobile, too.

Teddy didn’t have the money to buy another car after Ma drove away in his, and it was too far for him to walk to work come winter and would cost him too much to take Ralph’s taxi every day. So he had to quit his job with the Soo Line Railroad to take one closer to home. At the meatpacking plant over on the south side of town, Mill Town Meats, though most folks called it The Hanging Hoof. Every morning until I was eight and could get around by myself, Teddy got me out of bed, fixed me an egg, and walked me across the street to the Jacksons’ to get sat on—babysat by Mrs. Jackson, or sat on by Jack for real, if he was in a scrappy mood—then Teddy hiked to work. When his shift was done, he’d pick me up, fix me some supper—usually eggs and fried potatoes, because after seeing all that blood at work, the last thing Teddy wanted was to see more of it sizzling in his fry pan—then he’d sit on the sofa and mourn the loss of the lady he loved more than electricity.

I was upset when Teddy had to stop working for the Soo Line after Ma left—upset because I thought he was the conductor, and whenever a train rattled through town while he was gone, I was sure it was Teddy blowing that whistle. Promising me that he was at work, and that he hadn’t run off to chase his dream of becoming an electric man. Jack Jackson set me straight on that one, though. Telling me right in front of his brothers and sisters—all six of them with J names and heads shaped like lightbulbs—that Teddy wasn’t nothing but a Soo Line shit shoveler. “It’s true!” Jack yelled when I called him a liar. “Teddy doesn’t do nothing but scrape the shit out of the cattle cars once they’re delivered to The Hanging Hoof.”

I never did tell Teddy that I knew he was a shit shoveler and not a conductor, which was probably for the best, him always wanting to look so respectable and all. Not that it mattered, because soon after, Teddy stopped being a shit shoveler and took a job at The Hanging Hoof, probably butchering cows, judging by the blood on his clothes, even though that seemed impossible since Teddy wouldn’t even kill a spider. Not even if it was big as a fifty-cent piece and I was standing on a chair screaming at him to lambast the creepy bugger. Instead he got a plastic cup and an envelope and he trapped the spider under the cup, then slipped the envelope under it for a cover and carried him outside. If Teddy did kill cows at The Hanging Hoof, I told myself, then it had to be one of those contradictions. I didn’t know for sure if I was using that word right, though, because when we had it on our spelling list and Mrs. Carlton asked for a sentence using the word, I raised my hand because I thought I had a good one: Teddy Favors is a cow-killing, spider-saving contradiction. But Mrs. Carlton called on Jolene Jackson instead.

It was the same week we had affliction on our spelling list and I raised my hand for that word, too, planning on saying: People who sing while peeing on the toilet probably have an affliction, but she didn’t call on me that time, either. Which is probably a good thing, come to think of it, because we weren’t supposed to say pee in school. Only restroom. And I didn’t think that People who sing while rest-rooming on the toilet probably have an affliction was a real sentence, because it didn’t sound right to me.

I looked at the desk at the front of the room. “Mrs. Carlton?” I said. “Is People who sing while restrooming on the toilet probably have an affliction a proper sentence?”

Mrs. Carlton looked up from her work and frowned. “Isabella, what does that have to do with Moby-Dick?”

I shrugged. “I was just wondering.”

She sighed and told me to get busy, then she went back to grading papers.

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Meet the Author

Sandra Kring lives in Wisconsin. Her debut novel, Carry Me Home, was a BookSense Notable Pick and a 2005 Midwest Booksellers’ Choice Award nominee. The Book of Bright Ideas was a 2006 Target Bookmarked™ selection and was named to the New York Public Library’s Books for the Teen Age list in 2007.

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How High the Moon 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
nancymitchell More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderful adult tale from the perspective of 10 year old Tomboy, Teaspoon, who has the gift of a beautiful singing voice and whose mother has abandoned her to pursue a career in Hollywood. This is a strong cast who provides a deep look at small Mill-town living in the "50's" in all the humor, triumph and charm while transforming Teaspoon into Isabella, her birth name, and all that that entails. I recommend!
CRM2085 More than 1 year ago
Sandra Kring's characters are drawn so vividly and are so endearing that they pull you in and don't let go until you've read the very last page. When I finish a book by Sandra Kring I just want to read another and another. Also recommended is The Book of Bright Ideas.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1955 in Mill Town energetic rabble-rouser ten year old Teaspoon enjoys singing. The Tom Boy was deserted five years ago by her single mom Catty. Her mother's former boyfriend Teddy raises Teaspoon who decides she needs to change her out of control behavior so he will be proud of her. To achieve a life makeover, Teaspoon needs a female role model as all she knows is typical male behavior: fighting, lying, and more fighting. To achieve her objective, Teaspoon joins the Sunshine Sisters mentoring program in which an adult is paired with a child. Her Big Sister is highly respected Brenda Bloom, daughter of the most affluent family in town. Brenda and Isabella (ladies are not Teaspoon except in size) match up well and soon each is teaching the other and Teddy until Catty returns. This is a strong cast who provides a deep look at small-town living in the Eisenhower Era. The story line is driven by the relationships with Teaspoon as the center holding the tale together. Although the plot is straightforward with no surprising spins, historical fans will enjoy tomboyish Teaspoon's efforts to become respectable Isabella (her birth name). Harriet Klausner
Observantgrandmother More than 1 year ago
I ordered this book because it is set in Wisconsin where we lived most of our lives. How refreshing to read a story with such a unique perspective. Quite unlike most books I read. Loved it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Name~Rain <p> Age~18 <p> Gender~ &female <p> Wolf Apperance/Human Apparance~Normal gray wolf but has one white ear/Long blonde curly hair and blue eyes<p> Name~Storm <p> Age~20 <p> Gender~ &male <p> Hum and Wolf Apearance~Wolf=Black wolf<>Human=Dark brown hair <p> Name~Ceder and Faya~Age10~Apearances Human and Wolf~Ceder=Ink black hair witha cowlick~Wolf=Black wolf witha dark brown belly~Faya=Dirty blonde hair with nantural blonde streaks~Wolf= Gray wolf with a silver white belly
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I pivture Charlie Fry exactly like Neil from Paranorman.
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I read my first Sandra Kring book a few years ago and couldn't wait to start this one. I loved it. Her characters are so real and the story just draws you in. I can't wait to start her next book!
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Awesomeness1 More than 1 year ago
I was really excited when I won this book on Firstreads because it looked absolutely adorable. Living in a small town in 1955, 10-yr-old Teaspoon sometimes seems larger than life. She fights, fibs, talks too much, and has a passion for singing. But Teaspoon wants to change in order to be "respectable" for Teddy, the boyfriend that her mom abandoned her with 5 years ago. So Teaspoon joins the Sunshine Sisters, a mentoring program, and her Big Sister is none other than Brenda Bloom, the daughter to the richest and most respectable family in town. I greatly enjoyed this books cast. All the characters are well-drawn with big personalities, the biggest belonging to the narrator. Teaspoon is delightfully naive and very funny, even when she doesn't intend to be. However her voice did waver on the thin line bewteen charming and irritating, as all ten year olds sometimes do. The plot was good, if somewhat predictable. I did enjoy this book, and I wish I could give it 3.5 stars. I feel it would make a really good movie one day. I'll be smiling about Teaspoon's summer for a while, but if I never hear the words "affliction" or "respectable" agian, it will be too soon.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
&#1046 Name &#1046 <br> Faye Kai Tonellia <p> &#1046 Gender &#1046 <br> Female <p> &#1046 Age &#1046 <br> 21 <p> &#1046 Rank &#1046 <br> Alpha <p> &#1046 Human Appearence &#1046 <br> She has waist-length, wavy, ink-black hair. It's either long out or in a high-pony tail. Her eyes are the color of diamonds and she has a light tan skin tone. She has curves, but really isn't one to show them off. Angular facial features, like higher cheek bones and almond shaped eyes. Typically wears dark blue jeans with black combat boots and black T-shirts. She may also wear a denim jacket. <p> &#1046 Wolf Appearence &#1046 <br> She has silvery-grey fur with a white star on her head. Icy blue eyes and gleaming white teeth and claws. <p> &#1046 Personality &#1046 <br> Why don't YOU come and meet me..... <p> &#1046 Extra &#1046 <br> She can be flirty, but won't just go for ANY guy. Will swear (working on keeping that low.) Loves Anime (ex. Black Butler, Death Note, Vampire Knight, Ouran Host Club), Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance, Panic at the Disco, and All-American Rejects. Still want to know more, please feel free to ask!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Name: Luna <P> &starf <P> Gender: &female Female <P> &star <P> Looks as a human: <br> long Brown hair Brown eyes she wears a dark purple tee shirt and black pants <P> &starf <P> Looks as a wolf: <br> White fur and green eyes. <P> &star <P> Age: Dont ask. <P> &hearts <P> Persona: <br> Sweet <br> Fearful <br> Honest <br> Loyal <br> Kind <br> Tough <br> Careing <br> Tustworthy <br> Careful <P> &star <P> Other &star Just &star ask &star