Laugh with the Moon
By Shana Burg
Expected publication June 12, 2012 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Clare is not having a good time. Her mother has been dead for less than a year and now her father is packing her up and taking her with him all the way to the "warm heart of Africa" - Malawi. Clare feels trapped and alone in her new "home" but as she reluctantly begins to make friends, can Clare change her mind?
This was another book I picked up on a whim at Midwinter - with my job as Goddess of All Things Tween, I've been on the lookout for more middle-grade/tween novels. This one caught my eye because of its unique setting - Malawi, Africa, a place I know basically nothing about. And that is one of the things that I think this book does very well - there is no mistaking that this book is set in Malawi, from the language to the customs to the vivid descriptions of the setting. Burg has painted a realistic and fascinating portrait of the warm heart of Africa (as Malawi is apparently known) and the people who reside there. Though I find Clare a bit of a letdown as far as protagonists go, I enjoyed meeting the people of her new village. My problems with Clare are hard to define and unsatisfactory - I felt like I should relate much more to her, because I understand the place of grief she is coming from in this novel (as I have experienced a similar loss), but there was just something about her that kept me from truly connecting to her. That being said, it's not hard for me to imagine children relating easily to her story, as well as being interested in finding out how she is going to handle this very different new phase of her life. At times, I felt the action of the book was a bit stilted and the tragedy that strikes about halfway through seemed more of a ploy than a genuine necessity (I think the same things could have been accomplished through a different set of events in the book). Overall, though, I found this to be a quick and engaging read. I enjoyed watching Clare grow and learning a bit about Malawi in the process.
Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.