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Moon Pie

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Overview

Someone has to keep their head, as Mum used to say, and 11-year-old Martha is used to being that someone in her family. Her little brother, Tug, is too small. Her dad has been acting too strange. And Mum's not here anymore.

So when Dad falls off the roof, it's Martha who ices his knee and takes him to the doctor. And when Dad doesn't come home, it's Martha who cooks Tug's favorite pie and reads him his bedtime story. And when Dad passes out, ...

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Moon Pie

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Overview

Someone has to keep their head, as Mum used to say, and 11-year-old Martha is used to being that someone in her family. Her little brother, Tug, is too small. Her dad has been acting too strange. And Mum's not here anymore.

So when Dad falls off the roof, it's Martha who ices his knee and takes him to the doctor. And when Dad doesn't come home, it's Martha who cooks Tug's favorite pie and reads him his bedtime story. And when Dad passes out, it's Martha who cleans him up and keeps his secret.

But eventually Dad's problems become too big for even Martha to solve, and she realizes it's not all up to her—there are people and places she can turn to.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In a story that’s simultaneously lighthearted and unsettling, Mason (the Quigleys series) successfully depicts the tumultuous mix of love, anger, disappointment, and confusion that a parent’s alcoholism brings to a family. Keeping the focus on stalwart, responsible 11-year-old Martha, who has been taking on increasing household responsibilities since her mother’s death two years earlier, Mason eschews didacticism and melodrama, closely portraying Martha’s puzzlement about the changes in her once safe and reassuring father. Not until a new friend points out the obvious—her father is a drunk—does she understand his baffling behavior. Martha’s struggles to wean her father off alcohol, keep her grandparents from calling Social Services, and help her five-year-old brother, Tug, feel safe are credibly and movingly rendered. Secondary characters are satisfyingly drawn: always ravenous Tug; their stern but well-meaning grandparents; and, especially, Martha’s best friend, theatrical, cross-dressing Marcus. Martha’s free time is spent sewing costumes for Marcus and aiding him in his filmmaking ventures; her eventual turn to acting herself, though hinted at earlier in the book, is somewhat surprising, but makes for a rewarding finale. Ages 9–13. (Nov.)
From the Publisher
Starred Review, School Library Journal, January 1, 2012:
“[An] in-depth, touching, and absorbing novel of a family’s disintegration, repair, and promise.”

Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 2011
"British author Mason has conjured a rarity indeed—a tremendously charming, unflinching account of a parent’s downward spiral."

Children's Literature - Nicole Peterson Davis
Martha started taking control of her household after her mother died. Her father was normal for a while, but then he started acting strangely and being unreliable. Martha has a lot of responsibilities, but does spend some of her free time at her friend's house creating re-makes of Hollywood movies. Martha has some clues to figure out why her father is so strange, but her friends were the ones who told her about alcoholism. Pretty soon Martha and her brother Tug are sent to live with their grandparents while her dad gets things under control. This heartwarming story gives the children's perspective of living with an alcoholic father, and being taken away from him by someone working in Social Services. The author does an excellent job of describing the emotions and how the father's drinking problem effects his life and the lives of his two children. Because this is an emotionally sensitive topic, adults should be aware of what the children are reading so they can discuss these issues and help the children understand them. Reviewer: Nicole Peterson Davis
Kirkus Reviews
British author Mason has conjured a rarity indeed--a tremendously charming, unflinching account of a parent's downward spiral. Eleven-year-old Martha Luna can't stand it anymore. Her widowed father's been acting strange in recent months--rather like a wild gibbon--and her 5-year-old brother Tug ("famous for eating and a trick he did with spit") isn't helping. It's on the über-responsible Martha's to-do list to "Check Dad (more than once, if necessary)"--but it takes a savvy outsider to help her see that her newly clownish, accident-prone father who rents pink limos and wakes her up for midnight picnics is not simply eccentric, but an alcoholic. Grandma ("scary in a well-spoken sort of way") and Grandpa dutifully take care of the children while Dad's in rehab, but sanity comes in the delightfully improbable form of a flamboyant, cross-dressing 12-year-old filmmaker named Marcus who offers Martha practical advice and starring roles in his speed films of "golden classics." While the dialogue is realistic and rat-a-tat-tat quick, lyrical prose wends its way throughout, and Martha, in a sea of moods, compares the moon to everything from a stain to a bit of bone. Love conquers all in this big-hearted and heartbreaking story of Martha, Tug and their errant father who, in time, stops acting like a wild gibbon and finds his way home. (Fiction. 9-12)
School Library Journal
Gr 5–7—A lighthearted, cartoon-style cover design belies a serious and compelling story of a family in crisis. Martha Luna, 11, has been holding her family together since her mother's death, but when they move to a new house, she and her little brother, Tug, notice that their unemployed dad is acting "strange." He takes foolish chances and falls off the roof, and sometimes disappears, leaving them home alone. When it becomes apparent that he is an alcoholic and his driving while intoxicated lands Martha in the hospital, the children are placed in the temporary custody of their strict maternal grandparents, and Tug is unable to adjust. Grandma softens only when talking to Martha about her mother, a talented actress. When Martha, costume designer for her outrageously flamboyant friend Marcus's speed movies, discovers her own acting talent, events are set in motion that bring their recovered father back into their lives and lead to a triumphant climax and real hope for reuniting their family. The brilliance of this novel is its point of view: narrated in third person, it nevertheless plants readers firmly in Martha's skin, skillfully conveying her extraordinary sense of responsibility, growing dread, resignation, and, ultimately, self-realization. Strong characterization is built by the continuous layering of small details. Readers know Tug by his innocent questions and observations, and Marcus's over-the-top remarks and behavior (think Kurt on TV's Glee) provide much-needed comic relief. While the setting is England, the story could take place anywhere. Readers who enjoyed David Almond's My Dad's a Birdman (2008) and Amy Hest's Remembering Mrs. Rossi (2007, both Candlewick) will appreciate this more in-depth, touching, and absorbing novel of a family's disintegration, repair, and promise.—Marie Orlando, formerly at Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385752350
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 11/8/2011
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 1,055,298
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 650L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 7.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

SIMON MASON is the author of the Quigleys series for young readers: The Quigleys (Highly Commended in the UK's Branford Boase Award), The Quigleys at Large, The Quigleys Not for Sale, and The Quigleys in a Spin. He has also written three adult novels.

Simon lives in Oxford with his wife and two children.

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Read an Excerpt

1

‘Come down at once!’ Martha called. ‘You’ll fall and hurt yourself.’

Dad took no notice. He went further up the drainpipe, grunting noisily, and grabbed the guttering of the bay window roof. With a sudden, wild effort he hoicked a leg over, and hung there like a gibbon, grinning fiercely down at them over his shoulder.

He panted something.

‘What did he say, Martha?’ Tug said.

‘Pardon?’ Martha called up.

‘Piece of,’ Dad said. ‘Cake.’

He spoke like that, in short gasps. ‘Done this. Before. No need. To worry.’

He took his hand off the guttering and began to wave, and quickly put it back again.

‘Dad’s strange, isn’t he, Martha?’ Tug said.

‘He’s very badly behaved. Dad, I want you to come down now. I’m going to go and get the spare key from Mrs Wilkinson.’

But Dad was already crouching on the steeply sloping bay window roof.

‘Be careful!’ Martha called.

He rose slowly to his feet, skittered suddenly on the tiles, waved his arms wildly once, and clung to the brickwork in front of him, laughing.

‘Easy does it,’ he said.

He shuffled sideways, face squashed against the brick, and blindly reached up an arm until he could feel the window sill of Martha’s bedroom above him.

‘Watch this, Tug,’ he said over his shoulder. ‘Any second now you’re going to see me give a little jump. And grab hold of that sill. Pull myself up. Jimmy the sash. Ease open the window. And hey presto.’

Tug let go of Martha’s hand. ‘Do it, Dad!’ he shouted. He began to dance with excitement.

Martha took back Tug’s hand. ‘Dad! You’re to come down now. This minute!’ She used her strictest voice.

‘First, a little jump,’ Dad said. He gave a little jump and missed the sill.

‘Oh!’ he said, as he fell.

He fell, crumpling onto the bay window roof, slithered crossways, scrabbling at the tiles, and skidded over the edge. He fell with a crunch into the hawthorn, which he had been promising to prune for months, and fell out of the hawthorn onto the wheelie bin which at once tipped over and flung him sideways along the gravel to where Martha and Tug stood holding hands and shouting.

Dad groaned, and there was a sudden silence, as if all the noise had been sucked out of the air. He lay there quietly on his back, eyes shut, bleeding from the nose. ‘Well,’ he said without opening his eyes. ‘I think my cat-burglar days are over.’

Tug fell on him with a sob.

Lights came on in the windows of neighbours’ houses and Martha took charge.

‘Yes, a slight accident,’ she was saying. ‘No thank you, Mrs Wilkinson, I think he’s OK. But may we use our spare key for a minute?’

Dad sat in the kitchen in his boxer shorts, with his left hand in a bowl of warm water and a large sticking plaster on his forehead. Martha was putting an ice pack round his right knee. The kitchen was small and square, with terracotta floor tiles, cracked here and there, and pine cupboards, a little shabby, and a much-repaired wooden table. There wasn’t quite enough room for things, but it didn’t matter because they could always be left on the counter or piled up in the corners or pushed behind the door.

‘You’ll need to see the doctor in the morning,’ Martha said.

‘I’m OK. Surface wounds. Nothing compared to the damage done to my pride. What do you think, Tug? Am I OK?’

‘You bashed the tree,’ Tug said. ‘You broke the bin. The bin won’t work now. Why did you break the bin?’

‘I’ve been meaning to break that bin for weeks. I don’t like that bin.’

‘Why don’t you like that bin?’

‘It’s rude and unhelpful. Ow!’

‘Hold still,’ Martha said. ‘Don’t listen to him, Tug. He knows he’s been silly.’

‘She’s right, Tug. I’ve been very silly. And now look at me.’

They looked at him, where he sat, looking back at them glassily. There were cuts down his cheek where the hawthorn had scratched him and grazes on the backs of his hands and knees. Dust and dirt in his hair made him look suddenly older. But he was still Dad. Limping to the sink, he poured himself a glass of water, gingerly sipped it and pulled a funny face.

‘What time is it?’ he said.

‘Midnight.’

‘Come on then, or you’ll be tired tomorrow. I’m going up now. Tug?’

‘Yes, Dad?’

‘You weren’t frightened, were you? When I fell.’

‘No.’

‘Good boy.’

‘I didn’t like the noise.’

‘No. I must remember to be silent when I fall off roofs.’

‘But I wasn’t frightened.’

‘Good.’

Tug began to sniff.

‘Come on, Tug,’ Martha said. ‘Upstairs.’

They all went up together, into the darkness of the unlit landing, and Dad said good night and limped into his room. In the bathroom Martha made sure Tug cleaned his teeth. He was so floppy with sleepiness she had to hold him upright at the wash basin on his plastic step. Then she helped him to his room, the smallest bedroom, tucked away at the end of the landing, and read him one page of a story, and settled him down.

‘Good night, Tug.’

‘Good night, Martha. Is the light on?’

She switched on the nightlight. ‘Yes, the light’s on.’

‘Martha?’

‘Yes, Tug?’

‘Why’s Dad strange?’

Before she answered she drew her eyebrows together into a little frown, which was something she did when she was puzzled or upset. Then she said, ‘He’s not really strange, Tug. He’s just a bit excitable tonight. Go to sleep now.’

Going along the hall to her own room, she got into bed and lay there in the dark. A little while later she heard Dad get up and limp slowly back downstairs to the kitchen. She turned over and tried to get to sleep.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 27, 2012

    I love this book!

    Sweet

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2013

    Very cute

    Its a shame her dad is a lunatic

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 21, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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