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West of the Moon

West of the Moon

4.5 4
by Margi Preus

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In West of the Moon, award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Margi Preus expertly weaves original fiction with myth and folktale to tell the story of Astri, a young Norwegian girl desperate to join her father in America.
After being separated from her sister and sold to a cruel goat farmer, Astri makes a daring escape. She quickly


In West of the Moon, award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Margi Preus expertly weaves original fiction with myth and folktale to tell the story of Astri, a young Norwegian girl desperate to join her father in America.
After being separated from her sister and sold to a cruel goat farmer, Astri makes a daring escape. She quickly retrieves her little sister, and, armed with a troll treasure, a book of spells and curses, and a possibly magic hairbrush, they set off for America. With a mysterious companion in tow and the malevolent “goatman” in pursuit, the girls head over the Norwegian mountains, through field and forest, and in and out of folktales and dreams as they steadily make their way east of the sun and west of the moon.

Praise for West of the Moon
"Like dun silk shot thought with gold, Preus interweaves the mesmerizing tale of Astri’s treacherous and harrowing mid-nineteenth-century emigration to America with bewitching tales of magic. A fascinating author’s note only adds to the wonder."
--Booklist, starred review

"Norwegian history, fiction and folklore intertwine seamlessly in this lively, fantastical adventure and moving coming-of-age story."
--Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"Enthralling and unflinching, this historical tale resonates with mythical undertones that will linger with readers after the final page is turned."
--School Library Journal, starred review

"Astri is like a girl out of a fairy tale, and the native folktales that Preus weaves through the narrative serve as guides, lessons, and inspiration for her."
--Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Several Norwegian folktales are seamlessly integrated into the fast-paced, lyrically narrated story, which features a protagonist as stalwart and fearless as any fairy-tale hero."
--The Horn Book Magazine, starred review

"It’s Astri’s voice, however, that is most appealing: her direct, no-nonsense narration has a sharp bite, yet it also reveals the vulnerable young girl who’s willing to continue to fight but is nonetheless exhausted by the weight of her struggle. The chapters have an episodic structure that makes this an ideal choice for readaloud or storytelling adaptations, while the mix of folklore, fact, and fantasy will please fans of Edith Patou’s East."
--The Bulletin of The Center for Children’s Books

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 03/24/2014
Inspired by a few lines from her immigrant great-great grandmother's diary, Newbery Honor author Preus (Heart of a Samurai) spins the sometimes harrowing tale of Astri, a 13-year-old Norwegian girl sold into hard labor by her greedy aunt. With a dead mother, a father in America, an imperiled younger sister, and the foreboding goat-keeper who has bought her, Astri is like a girl out of a fairy tale, and the native folktales that Preus weaves through the narrative serve as guides, lessons, and inspiration for her. Determined to escape her cruel master, rescue her sister, and join her father in America, she learns firsthand the sacrifices—financial, physical, and emotional—that immigrants face. Astri is fierce and brave enough to bargain with Death, and not always innocent; likewise, the villain is also an agent of salvation. In the reality these folktales frame, there are no easy or absolute categories. A threat of sexual violence and a grisly death might be hard on sensitive readers, but this immigrant's tale would ring false without them. Ages 10–14. Agent: Stephen Fraser, Jennifer De Chiara Agency. (Apr.)
Children's Literature - Beverley Fahey
Thirteen-year old Astri lives with her mean-spirited Aunt and longs for the day she can flee to America and join her father. Her aunt sells her to the odious, hunchbacked goatherd Svaalberd. Living in squalor and servitude with her abusive master, Astri decides to run away when Svaalberd’s intentions turn amorous. But first she must return home to rescue her youngest sister, Greta. The pair set out accompanied by a mute serving girl she calls Spinning Girl. With Savaalberd in hot pursuit Astri must depend on her wit, a book of spells, and the kindness of strangers. Throughout her arduous and difficult journey she is comforted and buoyed by the Norwegian tales oft told by her father. When Astri’s goal to reach the Columbus and sail to America is met she then must face the daunting task of a hazardous journey by sea. Woven into the text stories such as “The Three Billy Goats Gruff,” “ East of the Sun and West of the Moon,” and “The Twelve Wild Ducks” not only sustain Astri but give purpose to her escape and meaning to her life. Deftly told by a spellbinding storyteller, Astri’s tale is one of adventure, fear, daring, and coming of age. Seamlessly the Norwegian tales are woven into a perfect thread that sustains the tale and hopefully will lead readers to delve more into the folklore. Moments of humor that cut through the suspense are welcomed by the reader and give a brief respite before another obstacle stands in Astri’s way. Based on the author’s great-great grandmother’s harrowing voyage to America, her diary entries lend credibility to the tale. The author’s note, a complete list of folktales referenced, a comprehensive bibliography, and notes from grandmother Linka’s diary round out the text. This is a thoroughly engaging adventure that begs to read more than one time. Reviewer: Beverley Fahey; Ages 12 to 14.
Voya Reviews, April 2014 (Vol. 36, No. 1) - Jennifer Rummel
Astri’s life changes when her aunt sells her to a goat farmer. With him, life is not pleasant. Constant chores fill her days, but more importantly, she misses her sister, Greta. After a night during which her safety is threatened, Astri finally escapes. She does not want her sister to suffer a similar fate, so she returns to her aunt’s house to rescue her. After their reunion, the girls look for a way to escape their lives and go to America. Astri wants a normal life and dares to take fate into her own hands. Astri is a strong female character willing to risk everything to make her and her sister’s lives better. The book takes places in Norway and does a marvelous job of showcasing the countryside. An author’s note explains that this book was inspired by great-great-grandmother’s diary. The story of Astri is fictional but based on fact, with pictures from the diary and explanation of terminology. With a lyrical tone, Preus weaves folktales into the story. This novel is a quick read full of dangers and the darkness of fairy tales. Reviewer: Jennifer Rummel; Ages 11 to 15.
School Library Journal
★ 04/01/2014
Gr 5–8—Astri is 13 when she is sold by her aunt and uncle to a goat farmer named Svaalberd to serve as an unpaid laborer. Defiant but practical, she spends months with the brutal and superstitious Svaalberd, cooking, cleaning, and caring for the goats, before she escapes the farm with her fellow captive, the mysterious Spinning Girl. Astri fetches her younger sister, Greta, from her aunt and uncle's house, and hightails it with Svaalberd's "treasure" to the coast in order to sail to America. At its most basic, this is a tale about a girl escaping a poverty-stricken life in mid-19th century Norway. But from the beginning, the mystical and wondrous elements of Norwegian folktales are woven into the narrative, lending a timeless quality to a story inspired by the author's family history. The harsh realities of that time period, from rickets to tetanus, take on a strange, magical, and often terrifying aspect, as seen through Astri's naive eyes. She compares her servitude to Svaalberd with the story of White Bear King Valemon, who steals a young girl away, but really, Svaalberd is more like a troll to Astri. Folktales inspire the protagonist and allow her to imagine her own situation as a sort of legend—but in real life, actions have consequences. The decisions Astri makes to survive come to haunt her, and with her regret comes a new maturity, strength, and an ability to face her future in America. Enthralling and unflinching, this historical tale resonates with mythical undertones that will linger with readers after the final page is turned.—Eva Mitnick, Los Angeles Public Library
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2014-01-29
Thirteen-year-old Astri is a goat girl, but she's no Heidi; she's a sharp, stone-hard girl who hasn't yet found the goodness inside herself. In fact, her life is as wretched as the darkest Norwegian fairy tale. Instead of being taken by White Bear King Valemon to his castle, Astri has been sold by her own aunt and uncle for "two silver coins and a haunch of goat" to a nasty old hunchbacked goatman named Svaalberd who lives in squalor. Folk tales from "The Twelve Wild Ducks" to "The Three Billy Goats Gruff" weave through Astri's often dryly humorous, suspenseful first-person account until one feels like the other…including her riotous escape from the violent man-troll and the rescue of her beloved little sister. The girls' odyssey over hill and dale, aided by a kind milkmaid and lonely widow, takes them all the way to an America-bound ship—the Columbus. Whether or not their father is still alive in America, the country beckons like the castle in the bear story that "lies east of the sun and west of the moon." Preus, who won a Newbery Honor for Heart of a Samurai (2010), was inspired by her Norwegian great-great-grandmother, who immigrated to America in 1851, as she explains in an author's note, even providing reproductions of some of her great-great-grandmother's papers. Norwegian history, fiction and folklore intertwine seamlessly in this lively, fantastical adventure and moving coming-of-age story. (glossary, bibliography) (Historical fiction. 11-14)

Product Details

Amulet Books
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)
810L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years


Meet the Author

Margi Preus has written many popular plays, picture books, and novels for young readers. She has traveled the globe to research her novels and, along the way, has made friends in Japan, Norway, and many other places. She lives in Duluth, Minnesota. Visit her online at margipreus.com.

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West of the Moon 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
TheIndigoQuill More than 1 year ago
See full review @ The Indigo Quill . blogspot . com       Do I sense a Newbery Award? I think so. Margi Preus has brought an exceptional piece of literature to the table in her new novel, West of the Moon. Norwegian sisters Astri and Greta are separated when Astri is sold to the local goat herder, Svaalberd. Their mother is passed and their father has made his getaway to America with the others caught in "America Fever." The idea is that he'd make a better living for his family and send for them when the time was right. Astri decides she can no longer settle for less than reuniting with their father, so she makes her escape, taking her sister and a mysterious quiet girl with her. After the initial track through a large forest while being chased by Svaalberd, they finally arrive at the ship headed to America. This is where the story shifts and proceeds with a new tone.       To top off the adventure, Preus coalesces folklore and inspiration from her own ancestry to devise a Newbery-worthy novel. This book reminded me a lot of the old American girl books, especially my personal favorite, Kirsten. The journey you take with the characters isn't just interesting, but it can also open up the opportunity to learn about immigration; illnesses and illegal passengers included.       I found this book in the Young Adult section at Barnes & Noble and immediately fell in love with the cover (I wish I could say I don't judge a book by its cover, but I'm a sucker for beautiful artwork!). I decided to go on a whim and purchase it, and I couldn't set it down until I was finished! I love those kinds of books.      It was strange that I found it in the Young Adult books, because this is much more of a middle-grade book. I understand that there is one part where there's an implication of an adult theme, but it was very brief and if I were a kid, I probably wouldn't have caught it. Others have said they found it in the Children's section, so I guess different stores are categorizing it differently. It could go both ways, but it definitely looked out of place between all the books on vampires and teenage love-triangles.      I can't wait for next year's awards, and I really hope this book either wins, or gets really close. It has all the makings of a Newbery, and it would make a wonderful embellishment of literature on anyone's bookshelf. I am so glad I randomly bought this (and judged this book by its cover)!
YoungMensanBookParade More than 1 year ago
When Astri’s aunt sells her to a disgustingly cruel goatman, she is afraid she will never see her sister again. Astri is always looking for a way out of her situation and planning her escape. Forced to tend to the goats all day, Astri grows stronger and wiser. All the while she compares her story to an traditional cultural tale. When Astri finds another girl spinning straw into gold in the forbidden shed, she is determined to find out who this girl is. To add to the challenge of it all, the girl won’t talk. Who is the Spinning Girl? Will Astri ever see her sister again? I guess you just have to read the book to find out. This book has a good plot and is very creative. Margi Preus did well in telling this inspiring story. I recommend this book to anyone in grades through seven. I liked the stories that intertwine in this book. I give it four stars. Review by: Martha C., Age 11 Columbus Area Mensa
HomeSchoolBookReview More than 1 year ago
It is mid-nineteenth century Norway, and thirteen year old Astri, who will be fourteen in the summer, and her eight year old sister Greta live on the farm with their uncle and aunt and four cousins. Their mother died shortly after giving birth to Greta, and their father then emigrated to America with a promise to send money for them to join him. However, Astri has heard nothing from him. Now, her cruel aunt sells her to be a servant for a vile, old goatherd named Mr. Svaalberd, who makes her a slave and wants to marry her. Astri plans to run away, go back for Greta, and then take the two of them to America. Will she be able to escape? Can she find Greta? And if so, how will they ever get to America? I really enjoyed Margi Preus’s Newbery Honor Book, Heart of a Samurai, so when Abrams sent out their new book catalogue for reviewers, I asked to review her historical fiction novel, Shadow on the Mountain, about a fourteen-year-old Norwegian boy named Espen during World War II. They sent me West of the Moon instead. It is based on a few lines in the diary of the author’s great great grandmother who emigrated from Norway to America around 1850 about asking a lonely young girl on the boat to be her maid. Preus then invented this story about the girl, weaving various Norwegian legends and folk tales into the plot. Astri tells these to while her time away or console Greta as they seek to make their way east of the sun and west of the moon. The book presents a good picture of what the immigrant experience for Norwegians was like. Also included is some information on old health conditions, such as rickets, cholera, and tetanus or lockjaw, which were common at the time. There is a little bit of bad language (a few instances of the “h” word and the name of God as an exclamation). References to trolls, a book of spells and curses, and other aspects of Norse mythology occur. Instances of abuse, violence, stealing, and even an attempted rape are found. A death scene is somewhat gruesome, and the philosophy expressed gets a bit heavy at times. This is not to say that the book is filled with gore, but it does contain a good bit that is rather realistic, so it might not be appropriate for more sensitive readers or children under say ten.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amazing story!