Once Upon a Story
February 19, 2015

22328530 Moonpenny Island by Tricia Springstubb

Published by: Balzer & Bray

Release date:February 2015

Ages: 8-12

From the publisher:

Moonpenny is a tiny island in a great lake. When the summer people leave and the ferries stop running, just the tried-and-true islanders are left behind. Flor and her best, her perfect friend, Sylvie, are the only eleven-year-olds for miles and miles—and Flor couldn’t be happier. But come the end of summer, unthinkable things begin to happen. Sylvie is suddenly, mysteriously, whisked away to school on the mainland. Flor’s mother leaves to take care of Flor’s sick grandmother and doesn’t come back. Her big sister has a secret, and Flor fears it’s a dangerous one.

Meanwhile, a geologist and his peculiar daughter arrive to excavate prehistoric trilobites, one of the first creatures to develop sight. Soon Flor is helping them. As her own ability to see her life on this little lump of limestone evolves, she faces truths about those she loves—and about herself—she never imagined.
My thoughts:

You would think that living on a small island in the middle of the lake would be akin to paradise. The quiet (once the tourists leave for the summer), the lack of traffic, the sense of community.
And for some, like Flor’s father, the island is a kind of paradise. But being isolated doesn’t mean you’re sheltered from growing pains, and those coming-of-age moments of awareness, as 11-year-old Flor is finding out. Let’s see how much of this sounds familiar:

As parents/adults, we look back on those adolescent years and remember: they’re hard. In Moonpenny Island, Tricia Springstubb has captured that voice of unrest and confusion in Flor. She’s young, a tad naive, desperately optimistic. But also worried, seeking stability, and hurt. Whether you live on an isolated island, or the congested city, these are universal traits all adolescents experience.

One of the tricky parts about writing middle grade is finding balance. To wrap everything up in a nice, neat box, with a happily ever after ending, is unrealistic. And cheats the reader, who identifies with the struggles of the characters, but then feels disassociated from the perfect ending. At the same time, this is an age group who needs hope, who needs to know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, even if it’s not the ending they hope for. Moonpenny Island recognizes this. There are some questions left unanswered, some wounds not fully healed. But there’s also an acceptance of change and the possibility of new things and we get the sense that Flor is ready to face what’s next. And that’s what’s most important.

With a unique setting, a strong voice, and the emotional rollercoaster of those almost-a-teen years, Moonpenny Island will resonate with its target audience. And with the parents who remember.

 

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