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What the Moon Saw

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Overview

Clara Luna's name means "clear moon" in Spanish. But lately, her head has felt anything but clear. One day a letter comes from Mexico, written in Spanish: Dear Clara, We invite you to our house for the summer. We will wait for you on the day of the full moon, in June, at the Oaxaca airport. Love, your grandparents.

Fourteen-year-old Clara has never met her father's parents. She knows he snuck over the border from Mexico as a teenager, but beyond that, she knows almost nothing ...

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What the Moon Saw

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Overview

Clara Luna's name means "clear moon" in Spanish. But lately, her head has felt anything but clear. One day a letter comes from Mexico, written in Spanish: Dear Clara, We invite you to our house for the summer. We will wait for you on the day of the full moon, in June, at the Oaxaca airport. Love, your grandparents.

Fourteen-year-old Clara has never met her father's parents. She knows he snuck over the border from Mexico as a teenager, but beyond that, she knows almost nothing about his childhood. When she agrees to go, she's stunned by her grandparents' life: they live in simple shacks in the mountains of southern Mexico, where most people speak not only Spanish, but an indigenous language, Mixteco.

The village of Yucuyoo holds other surprises, too-- like the spirit waterfall, which is heard but never seen. And Pedro, an intriguing young goatherder who wants to help Clara find the waterfall. Hearing her grandmother’s adventurous tales of growing up as a healer awakens Clara to the magic in Yucuyoo, and in her own soul. What The Moon Saw is an enchanting story of discovering your true self in the most unexpected place.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Filled with evocative language that is rich in imagery and nuance and speaks to the connections that bind us all. Add a thrilling adventure and all the makings of an enticing read are here.”–Kirkus Reviews, Starred

“Readers . . . will find themselves swept up in this powerful, magical story, and they’ll feel, along with Clara, ‘the spiderweb’s threads, connecting me to people miles and years away’.”–Booklist, Starred

Children's Literature - Naomi Williamson
Clara Luna is fourteen and is experiencing discovered a feeling of unexplained restlessness. Clara's father came to the United States from Mexico as an illegal immigrant and while now a legal resident, he has never returned to his home country. Clara receives a letter from her father's parents inviting her to spend the summer. Because they sense Clara's restlessness her parents decide the best place for Clara to be for most of the summer is with her family in Mexico. Clara, who has no knowledge of her father's family, is excited to have the chance to learn more about his life before he arrived in the United States. She imagines what her grandparents and their home will be like and draws pictures in her sketchbook. What she draws are images she has of Mexico, the flowers, adobe homes, and bright, bright colors. What she finds are small buildings, what would be considered shacks in her hometown in suburban Maryland. Clara is horrified, but quickly learns how kind and hardworking her grandmother and grandfather are. She learns that her grandmother Helena is a healer, and that she "sees" things that others do not. Clara's negative attitude when she discovers that there will be no entertainment, telephone, or easy contact with her home disappears quickly as she learns more about the culture in Yucuyoo. She forms an unlikely friendship with Pedro, a goat herder as she learns more about the heritage she has embraced. The story is told in the voices of both Clara, recording her summer visit, and her abuelita Helena, talking of her life as a teenager and later as a healer in the village. Resau is very familiar with the culture described in this book, and while some may find it hard tobelieve that Clara accepts the changes in her life so easily, they may also see the simplicity of the life and understand why it might be appealing to a reader who is a product of the fast-paced world in which they live. The possibility that Clara may also have the ability to heal adds an additional dimension to the story.
VOYA - Sherry York
Fourteen-year-old Clara Luna and her parents and little brother live in Maryland. Since he came to the United States years earlier, Clara's father has never returned to his childhood home in Mexico. Clara has become restless, walking in the woods and experiencing strange feelings. When a letter comes from her grandparents in Oaxaca, Clara goes to visit them for the summer. After a journey that includes an airplane flight and three busses, Clara is transported into another world, living without electricity, without plumbing, without telephones, and in the rainy season with grandparents whom she has never met. During the next weeks Clara learns that her grandmother is a healer, an ability that Clara has apparently inherited as well. Clara learns about Abuela's long and interesting life while exploring this strange new world. She becomes friends with Pedro, who herds goats and plays the guitar, and she eventually comes to love her grandparents and appreciate the culture that they represent. After a lengthy search, Pedro and Clara discover a hidden waterfall, he is bitten by scorpions, and she uses her new knowledge and powers of healing to save his life. At the end, Clara regrets having to return to the world from which she has come. In this pleasant account of a contemporary girl entering a more primitive world, the plot lacks sufficient conflict to actively engage the reader's imagination. While the characters are sympathetically portrayed, they lack realism, perhaps because the author is writing about a culture that is not her own. The story remains merely a story, pleasant but lifeless.
KLIATT
Clara Luna is a 14-year-old Mexican American girl. As the full moon rises in the spring, she is restless, wandering out at night and walking through the woods outside her house in Maryland. When her parents discover she is outside, they are distraught. And when a letter arrives from Clara's grandparents in the mountains of Mexico, her parents realize she needs to go and spend time with them to understand her heritage. Clara's father had come into the US as an illegal alien. He worked hard and married his English teacher, Clara's mother. He never spoke much about his home in Mexico, and so Clara doesn't know what to expect. What she finds is a village quite unlike anything she has known and yet a place in which she feels surprisingly at home; in fact she fits right into the simple village life. Though readers may have a hard time believing the ease with which she does this, Clara's experiences and her grandmother's story of growing up as a healer are entirely captivating. The intertwining of Clara's restlessness with the story of her grandmother's apprenticeship with herbs and treatments gives insight into a culture and heritage quite different from modern Maryland. Clara also makes friends with Pedro, the son of a man who left his family for the promise of a better life in the US. Along with the cultural heritage of the Oaxaca region is the role that restlessness has played in the lives of families there. This is a beautifully told story of finding oneself by holding on to ancient traditions. KLIATT Codes: J--Recommended for junior high school students. 2006, Random House, Delacorte, 272p., $15.95 and $17.99. Ages 12 to 15.
—Janis Flint-Ferguson
School Library Journal
Gr 5-9-Out of the blue, 14-year-old Clara Luna receives a letter from her grandparents inviting her to spend the summer with them in Mexico. She has never met her father's parents and he has not seen them since he left his homeland more than 20 years ago. Wary of visiting people she doesn't know and yet frustrated and restless with her life at home, Clara embarks on the two-day journey to the remote village of Yucuyoo. Through her experiences there, she discovers not only her own strength as an individual, but also her talent for healing, which she shares with her grandmother. The exquisitely crafted narrative includes Clara's first-person impressions and descriptions interspersed with chapters of her grandmother's story. The characters are well developed, each with a fully formed backstory. Resau does an exceptional job of portraying the agricultural society sympathetically and realistically, naturally integrating Spanish words and phrases in Mixteco into the plot without distracting from it. The atmosphere is mystical and dreamlike, yet energetic. Readers will relish Clara's adventures in Mexico, as well as her budding romance with Pedro. This distinguished novel will be a great addition to any collection.-Melissa Christy Buron, Epps Island Elementary, Houston, TX Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
When Clara Luna, 14, visits rural Mexico for the summer to visit the paternal grandparents she has never met, she cannot know her trip will involve an emotional and spiritual journey into her family's past and a deep connection to a rich heritage of which she was barely aware. Long estranged from his parents, Clara's father had entered the U.S. illegally years before, subsequently becoming a successful business owner who never spoke about what he left behind. Clara's journey into her grandmother's history (told in alternating chapters with Clara's own first-person narrative) and her discovery that she, like her grandmother and ancestors, has a gift for healing, awakens her to the simple, mystical joys of a rural lifestyle she comes to love and wholly embrace. Painfully aware of not fitting into suburban teen life in her native Maryland, Clara awakens to feeling alive in Mexico and realizes a sweet first love with Pedro, a charming goat herder. Beautifully written, this is filled with evocative language that is rich in imagery and nuance and speaks to the connections that bind us all. Add a thrilling adventure and all the makings of an entrancing read are here. (glossaries) (Fiction. 12-14)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780440239574
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 4/8/2008
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 382,340
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.68 (w) x 7.65 (h) x 0.66 (d)

Meet the Author

Laura Resau
What The Moon Saw is Laura Resau's first novel. The author lives in Colorado.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Read an Excerpt

1

Clara

Moonlight is what started everything, what led me to the edge one May night. Yes, I know I sound like a lunatic, but it’s fitting since Luna is my last name. Clara Luna. Clara Lunatic is what some boys at school call me. I turn red and roll my eyes when they say it, but Mom says this is the way eighth-grade boys flirt. I wish they knew what my name means in Spanish: Clear Moon. I didn’t feel like a clear moon on the day my adventure began, though. More like a fuzzy moon, just a faint light through clouds.

It was the afternoon of my neighborhood’s spring fair, and I was supposed to meet my best friend, Samantha, at one o’clock at the snowball stand, but she was late as usual. I was sweating and waiting in line for a raspberry snow cone when I noticed a miniature Walnut Hill set up on the table next to me. It was an exact replica of my neighborhood—every single house was there! There were little plastic people everywhere—smiling kids with helmets riding bikes on my street, women gardening, couples jogging, a teenager mowing the lawn, people barbecuing on their decks. It was kind of cool, but kind of creepy.

I found my family’s house, and sure enough, the shutters were dark green, and the aluminum siding was tan, just like ours. For some reason I shivered, even though the sun was blazing and sweat was dripping down my neck. In the backyard of our house, under a tree, stood a girl who looked about my age, fourteen. Her skin was lighter than mine and her hair was only down to her shoulders, but still, looking at her gave me goose bumps. Of course, her hair was painted on, so I couldn’t tell if she had the same streak of pumpkin orange underneath where I’d tested blond highlights the month before. She did have the same chubby cheeks, and the same way of standing awkwardly, as though she didn’t know what to do with her hands.

I paid for the snow cone and stayed staring at the tiny neighborhood, licking the syrupy ice.

“Pretty neato, huh?” said one of the mothers at the table behind a sign that read walnut hill neighborhood association. “You see your own house there, hon?”

I pretended not to hear her, and she turned away to talk with another mother about a shoe sale at the mall. Then I did something crazy. I didn’t know why, but I reached over and tried to pick up the plastic girl. She was glued down, and didn’t budge. I reached my other hand over and held down the turf grass as I yanked her up. She came up, but only after half my snow cone had fallen into my miniature yard.

The mother glanced back at me as slush dripped off the tree, making a red puddle where the girl used to be.

Her mouth dropped open, and before she could say anything, I turned and ran.

Samantha walked up to me at the bike racks just as I was fumbling with my bike lock. I could tell she’d spent hours in the bathroom perfecting her makeup, which was probably what made her so late. She begged me to stay and hang out with her for a while. I did, but I made sure we stayed far away from the miniature neighborhood. The rest of the afternoon I didn’t talk much. I felt like a hazy moon, all fogged up with questions that Samantha wouldn’t understand. I’m more than just a plastic doll, aren’t I? Who am I, really? Who did I come from?

On Dad’s side, I had no idea. All I knew was that before I was born, Dad crossed the Mexican border into Arizona, illegally—probably the only time in his life he’d broken a law. He hiked through the desert for three days and two nights, thirsty all the time, careful to stay hidden from the border police. In the cool darkness of night he walked, and during the blazing days he rested in the shade of cacti. Over the next years he picked tomatoes in the Southwest, and apples in the Northwest, and then made his way to the East Coast, where he mowed lawns and fell in love with his En-glish tutor—my mother. He married her and started his own landscaping business. Then I was born and then my little brother, Hector, and we all moved to Walnut Hill, suburban Maryland.

For all my fourteen years I’d never thought much about Mexico—at least not until those questions began taking over my mind like tangled weeds.

The night after I freed the plastic girl, I couldn’t sleep. The moonlight through my window made me restless. I picked up the girl from my nightstand and felt her hard and smooth in my hand. I couldn’t stop fiddling with her, the way I could never help wiggling a loose tooth with my tongue.

After a long time, I slipped the doll into the pocket of my nightgown and crept downstairs, opened the sliding glass doors, and balanced there on the metal edge in my bare feet. The air felt damp and warm for a May night. The grass smelled especially strong, and the trees seemed to be watching me.

I took the first step onto the cold concrete of the pa- tio. There was the hum of the air-conditioning fan, and beyond that, songs of crickets and maybe frogs.

Another few steps. My feet touched the wet blades of grass. This shocked me, woke me up. I walked across a wide stretch of lawn, and the ground squished beneath me like a sponge. I didn’t know where I was headed or why I was headed there.

Once I stepped past the edge of our yard, the grass didn’t feel any different, but I did. On and on I went. Across the Morgans’ lawn, along the Taylors’ fence into the Sweeneys’ yard, around their plastic-lined pond and down their driveway. I cut across the cul-de-sac, through more yards and streets. No cars moving. No people. Purple-blue shadows draped everything. I realized I was making a beeline for the patch of forest that marked the end of Walnut Hill.

I crossed the border between the last trimmed lawn and the tangle of wild grasses. I walked farther and farther into the shadows, weaving in and out of tree trunks, letting my hands run along their rough bark.

I missed this feeling. Until the year before, Samantha and I used to play in these woods together after school. Sometimes we were priestesses who could talk with animals in the Otherworld. Sometimes gypsy dancers living in treetops in the Black Forest. Sometimes scientists collecting insects in the Amazon. I’d always thought it was a magical place during the daytime, but in the moonlight it was more than magi-cal; it was a different world.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

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

    Posted September 18, 2007

    Funny, touching, magical and heartwarming all at once!

    Although this book is classified as young adult fiction, adult readers will enjoy it just as much. It's funny, touching, heartwarming, inspiring and magical all at once. The story is fascinating and Resau captures just what it feels like to be a middle schooler trying to find your place in this world. I especially loved the flashbacks of Clara's grandmother's life, Clara's multi-day journey to Mexico, her initial reactions to her grandparents' home and her wonderful adventures with Pedro. Such an amazing story--you won't be able to put it down! Resau is an extremely gifted writer.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted December 28, 2011

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    Posted July 9, 2009

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