Moon and I

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Overview

The Moon that inspires Betsy Byars's memoir isn't the one in the sky, but a huge, harmless blacksnake she finds in the rafters of her porch. This meeting begins an exploration of the writing process. With energy, wit, and delight, the Newbery medalist shows how "the good scraps" of her life, from a bully named Bubba to a gift-wrapped dime, weave into her work.

While describing her humorous adventures with a blacksnake, Betsy Byars recounts childhood anecdotes and ...

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Overview

The Moon that inspires Betsy Byars's memoir isn't the one in the sky, but a huge, harmless blacksnake she finds in the rafters of her porch. This meeting begins an exploration of the writing process. With energy, wit, and delight, the Newbery medalist shows how "the good scraps" of her life, from a bully named Bubba to a gift-wrapped dime, weave into her work.

While describing her humorous adventures with a blacksnake, Betsy Byars recounts childhood anecdotes and explains how she writes a book.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
For Byars, meeting an enormous blacksnake on her front porch becomes a springboard for tracing her lifelong love of animals, and also her likes and dislikes, successes and failures as a writer. The result is an appealingly idiosyncratic narrative that seamlessly weaves together the Newbery winner's life and art. In a personable, highly conversational style studded with wry observations and shot through with humility and perspective, Byars shares her views on the relative significance of various elements of a story; the importance of names in inventing characters (``I never had any trouble creating a terrible character as long as his name was Bubba''); the necessity for ``lots and lots of good scraps'' from real life; and the impossibility of writing when one is being watched, even by a snake. She uses lists, questions, examples from several of her works and even excerpts from fan letters--flattering and not--to illustrate her points. And, of course, she traces her developing friendship with Moon in its often hilarious ups and downs. It is pure pleasure and privilege to be thus invited into the world of such a warm and engaging artist. This goes far beyond most memoirs in its ability to engage the reader. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)
Children's Literature - Jan Lieberman
Betsy Byars fans are in for a treat when they her autobiography. Moon is the black snake that slips and slithers in and out of every chapter of the book stirring Ms. Byars to share her foibles, her philosophy, and her dreams with us. A licensed pilot, a mother of 4, a lover of animals, and an accomplished writer, the reader is not only impressed but delighted with her story. Chapters 9 and 10 will bring on the giggles as she describes her 'run-in' with a dead snake which she put in her car to take home for further study. A terrific read-aloud that will inspire you to read all 36 of her books. 1996 (orig.
Children's Literature - Beverly Kobrin
Moon, of Betsy Byars' absorbing The Moon and I, is a six-foot blacksnake. As Ms. Byers shares the slices of her life that have to do with it and others of its kind, she explains exactly how she writes. When youngsters next fret over your requests for rewrites, point out-as the author does-that this manuscript was written approximately 18 times before her publisher accepted it.
School Library Journal
Gr 4-7-- In this lively personal narrative, Byars focuses on the humorous results of her recent encounter with a very large, slightly mysterious black snake. Readers are thereafter treated to many interesting facts about snakes, and the elusive reptile becomes the key that opens the door to the author's happy childhood, the writing process, and the woman herself. The snake as centerpiece is a truly inspired choice; readers will be hooked into learning not only about such creatures and their habits, but also about Byars. In a witty, conversational style marked by short sentences and paragraphs and a deceptively simple use of dialogue to capture the humor or irony of the moment, this writer tells how she has arrives at the ideas for her books. Children will love this offering. It is very special nonfiction that truly entertains as it informs. --Phyllis Graves, Creekwood Middle School, Kingwood, TX
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780688137045
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/28/1996
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 112
  • Sales rank: 524,632
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 870L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.25 (w) x 7.62 (h) x 0.22 (d)

Meet the Author

Betsy Byars is a widely read and loved author of many award-winning middle-grade books for children, including Summer Of The Swans (Viking), a 1971 Newbery Medal winner. The Pinballs was an ALA Notable Children's Book in 1977 as well as the basis for an ABC Afterschool Special. Other books she has written for HarperCollins are Good-bye, Chicken Little; The Seven Treasure Hunts, illustrated by Jennifer Barrett; and three I Can Read Books, the popular The Golly Sisters Go West, Hooray For The Golly Sisters!, and The Golly Sisters Ride Again, all illustrated by Sue Truesdell. Ms. Byars lives in Clemson, South Carolina, with her husband.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

A Snake Named Moon



I glanced up and saw it.

Snake, I said to myself. That looks like a snake.

I got up out of my porch rocking chair and went closer.

That is a snake.

I stopped moving closer.

The snake lay on an overhead beam. It was long and slender.It was doubled back over its body, its head pillowed on one of itsloops. The snake was so dark in color, it looked black. Thewere round, the stare unblinking -- and the round, unblinking eyes were looking at me.I had been sitting on the porch for an hour, editing one of mybooks, and for an hour this snake had been watching me.Now I don ' t like anybody watching me when I'm writing -- particularly snakes.

I can't even write when my dog's watching. My dog can lie down under the word. processor and sleep -- thats fine, but when he starts watching, I can't write. I have to say, "Want to go for a walk?" Walk and sup-per are my dog's favorite words. I can't keep saying, "Want sup-per?" or the dog would end upweighing a thousand pounds.

Here's the way I write a book.

• I start on the word processor and write as much as I can. Then I print it.

• I take what I've printed, go sit somewhere else -- like the porch -- read it say, "This is terrible," and start working on it.

• I go back to the word processor, put in the changes, and it.

• I take what I've printed, go sit somewhere else, say, "Oh, this is still terrible," and rewrite it.

• Ikeep doing this until I say, "This is not as terrible as it used to be," then, "This is getting better," and finally (hopefully), "This is not bad at all."

That's how I do my writing, no matter what kind it is -- short stories, essays, novels. And it's worked for thirty years.

So, I was on the porch saying, "This is still terrible," when I looked up and saw this snake coiled high on one of the beams.

I moved my rocking chair back a bit. If the snake dropped off the beam, it could land on my lap. Nobody wants a lapful of snake.

I settled down to watch.

The snake continued to he in its relaxed coil. It shifted position occasionally -- stretching out full length, recoiling, curving, but it never moved from the beam.

I didn'tknow much about snakes, but the color -- black -- comforting. Blacksnakes are harmless and, beneficial.They go after mice, which I had a few of and which they were welcome to.

This snake was obviously not on the prowl at the moment. It might even be digesting one of my mice.

Slowly the snake raised its head, and I saw the startling milky of the chin and throat I decided to call my husband for second opinion. Yes, it's a blacksnake," Ed confirmed.

"But the throat is white. Are you sure blacksnakes have white throats?"

"Blacksnakes don't... er... bite, do they?"

"They can."

"But their bite is never more than a scratch."

"Ah."

I was gaining confidence.

"If cornered, the blacksnake will put up a good front" he went on. "It will even shake its tail like a rattler, but it's, not a good fighter. Sometimes it becomes so frantic it bites its own body."

That was my kind of snake.

There was a pause while my husband and I admired the snake, and the snake allowed us to.

"Have you got a heavy plastic garbage bag?" my husband asked abruptly.

"Garbage bag? What do you want a garbage bag for?"

"I think I'll take the snake to the airport" Ed said. His hangar at the airport was troubled by mice.

My reaction was instant and protective. "You can't have it" I said, "It's mine.

Meeting a snake on my front porch had been a pleasant distraction, and I like distractions -- especially when I'm writing.

After a while, however, I went back inside to the word processor. The window in the room where I work faces out onto the porch, and I got up frequently to check on what was now "my snake."

The snake was always there, but its position changed every time I looked. Sometimes the snake was draped around the beam like a scarf. Sometimes the snake's tail dangled below. Sometimes the head was tucked out of sight, under the body. Whatever the position, it was graceful and pleasing to watch.

As the afternoon wore on, my snake checks became more frequent I didn't think the snake would spend the night on the porch, and I wanted to see where it went after it left I wanted to see it slither down the wisteria vine -- which was probably how it got up on the porch in the first place -- and I wanted to see where it went.

Then something happened to me. I became totally engrossed In what I was writing.

Now most of the time I plod along, writing word by word, sentence by sentence. But then sometimes, suddenly -- its like switching to a higher gear in a car -- I take off.

That's what happened now -- I took off. I wrote furiously for about an hour. It was as if an invisible, dam had burst, and my fingers on the keyboard could barely keep up with my mind.

It was six o'clock when the magical flow stopped. My thoughts immediately returned to the snake, and I jumped up and went to the window.

The snake was gone.

Of all the stupid things to do -- I had let my writing get in the way of my snake watching!.

Disappearances upset me -- a lot.

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