Monday, June 23, 2014

West of the Moon by Margi Preus

West of the Moon by Margi Preus is a well-written play on a variety of traditional Norwegian tales, bound together with the story of two girls' journey to America in the mid-1800s.

In the old tales, a girl who is pure of heart can overcome obstacles and reach her goals with courage and hard work. In Astri's life, this has not proven to be the case. When she was a little child, she lived with her parents and little sister Greta, but now her mother is dead, her father is in America, and she and Greta are living with her aunt and uncle. When her aunt sells Astri to a smelly old goatherd who expects her to cook and clean for him now, and to marry him when she is a little older, Astri dreams of escaping the old man, finding her sister, and making her way to America, but she has no idea of the hardships in store for her when she sets her plan in motion. To get to safety, she is willing to lie, cheat, and steal . . . so, not very much like those pure-hearted fairy-tale maidens at all. Greta is still sweet and innocent, the kind of girl that everyone immediately loves, but pragmatic Astri can't afford to be so naive. Astri knows that there will be a price she has to pay to get herself and her sister safely to America -- but when the time comes, will she be able to pay it?

I'm really impressed at this book: the setting, the characterization, the plot, the use of fairy tales to highlight the theme -- all done right. Astri isn't always likable, but somehow you find yourself pulling for her all the same. Part of it is Astri's voice: the story is told from her perspective, with a hearty helping of snark and sarcasm. This book is also quite dark in places, but written so that readers at different ages will understand what's happening in ways that they can handle. This is one of the best children's books I've read this year, and I would not be surprised if it garners a shiny sticker on its cover when this year's awards are announced!

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

No comments:

Post a Comment