Book Review: Shooting the Moon
I may lose some kid lit cred by admitting this, but I tend to shy away when I see rolled up jeans on a cover. Just call it my “Edward’s Eyes” problem. But as was the case with “Eyes”, my preconceived notions about Frances O’Roark Dowell’s latest were completely off base. Apparently, I’m a slow learner. “Shooting the Moon” is middle grade fiction at its best: a setting that draws you in, a story that makes you think, characters that make you care, and a pace that keeps things interesting. One of the best books I’ve read in aught 8.
The Vietnam war is in full swing and the Dexters are an army family through and through. Instead of “dad”, the kids call their father “The Colonal”. Like I said, through and through. 12 year old Jamie and her older brother TJ have been preparing for war their whole lives, waging strategic battle with army men for years. TJ, a recent high school graduate, decides to enlist. The strange thing is, The Colonial is not pleased. In fact, he is outright vocal in his opposition. When TJ is shipped overseas, he sends letters home for his parents and rolls of film for Jamie. What’s contained in those photographs forces the youngest Dexter to rethink her gung-ho view of war.
This one makes quick work of drawing you in and holding your interest. Dowell (“The Secret Language of Girls”, “Chicken Boy”, the “Phineas L. MacGuire” books) seamlessly mixes in flashbacks to tell the story from the perspective of Jamie. Her point of view changes over the course of the book, but the transition doesn’t feel forced. A gradual and natural changing of opinion is a good thing to see in children’s lit.
So denim rollers, give ’em an extra flip. “Shooting the Moon” is succinct, emotionally rich, and bound to find favor among the upper elementary readers who crack its cover.
Find this book at your local library with WorldCat.
About Travis Jonker
Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.
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