Place To Hang The Moon

a place to hang the moon kate albus

A heartwarming story about three siblings, evacuated from London to live in the countryside, looking for a permanent home--and a new meaning for family.

A New York Public Library Best Book of the Year

It is 1940 and William, 12, Edmund, 11, and Anna, 9, aren't terribly upset by the death of the not-so-grandmotherly grandmother who has taken care of them since their parents died.

But the children do need a guardian, and in the dark days of World War II London, those are in short supply, especially if they hope to stay together. Could the mass wartime evacuation of children from London to the countryside be the answer?

It's a preposterous plan, but off they go-- keeping their predicament a secret, and hoping to be placed in a temporary home that ends up lasting forever. Moving from one billet to another, the children suffer the cruel trickery of foster brothers, the cold realities of outdoor toilets and the hollowness of empty stomachs.

But at least they find comfort in the village lending library-- a cozy shelter from the harshness of everyday life, filled with favorite stories and the quiet company of Nora Müller, the kind librarian.  The children wonder if Nora could be the family they've been searching for. . . . But the shadow of the war, and the unknown whereaouts of Nora's German husband complicate matters.

A Place to Hang the Moon is a story about the importance of family: the one you're given, and the one you choose. Filled with rich, sensory prose, allusions to classic children's stories like A Little Princess, Mary Poppins, and The Story of Ferdinand, this cozy tale with a classic feel is sure to warm your heart.---from the publisher

320 pages                                          978-0-8234-4705-3                                  Ages 9-12

Keywords:  historical fiction, 20th century, orphans, World War II, librarian, family, 9 year old, 10 year old, 11 year old, 12 year old


A Place to Hang the Moon

“Inch by inch, row by row

Please bless these seeds I sow

Please keep them safe below

‘Till the rain comes tumbling down”

– Dave Mallett, “Garden Song” (1978)

“Whether word of Edmund’s alleged delinquency would spread or not, the children couldn’t say, but for now all three were grateful for the normalcy of the day’s routine.

After lessons and the usual luncheon in the village hall, their hearts were ripe for the comfort of the library.

Mrs. Müeller was at the lending desk, knitting in hand. ‘Good afternoon, children! Back so soon?’ She put down her needles. ‘Florence Hughes was just in…I gather there’s been some commotion at the school?’

The words came out before William could weigh them. ‘It wasn’t Edmund. Really and truly, it wasn't.’

The librarian raised her eyebrows at the children. ‘Well, of course it wasn’t. Whoever said it was?’

The children looked at one another as Edmund breathed a sigh of relief. It was Anna who finally opened her mouth and found the entire story spilling out of it. Well, not all of it–she left out the bit about the three of them being orphans–but Jack and Simon’s cruelties, the snake in the bed, the paint…all that, she told. Edmund trained his eyes at the floor, but as Anna came to the end of the tragic tale, he looked at the librarian and was alarmed to find she had tears in her eyes.

‘Edmund. I’m terribly sorry.’ She sniffed. ‘To be blamed for something one did not do is a painful injustice indeed.’

Hot tears threatened. Edmund bit his lower lip to stop them. ‘Thanks.’

Mrs. Müeller regarded him intently. ‘You really put a dead snake in one of those boys’ beds?’

Edmund’s gaze returned to the floor, shame burning his cheeks again. ‘I did.’

Mrs. Müeller considered this. She crossed her arms over her chest as a shadow of a smile crossed her lips. ‘Well done you.’”

It’s 1940, and British children William, Edmund, and Anna Pearce are respectively twelve-, eleven-, and nine-years-old. They are orphans. Their parents died years ago, and their grandmother, who has been raising them ever since, has also recently passed away. Now, they only really have one another to count on.

It’s the early days of World War II and, with the expectation that Hitler will soon begin bombing London, their late grandmother’s attorney arranges for the trio to be evacuated alongside a bunch of other young people from a nearby school. Their destination is a small countryside town where the local families will be taking the busload of city kids into their respective homes.

Unfortunately for the Pearce children, they are first sheltered by a couple whose own two sons are nasty bullies. Enduring the torture, Edmund finally retaliates by sticking a dead snake in one of the bullies’ beds. The bullies then frame Edmund for a public misdeed of their own doing. Thereby forced to find another family with whom to live,  the Pearce children are longing for a loving home they can call their own.

And speaking of being blamed for something one did not do, the kindly local children’s librarian has somehow become persona non grata in town. It turns out she’s one of the good guys, and Mrs. Müeller becomes one of the few people in the world that the three Pearce children can lean on for support and understanding. Young readers will be wise to pay attention to the books that she turns the kids onto. (The backmatter contains a bibliography of the classics mentioned and/or alluded to.)

I was particularly moved by the Pearce kids’’ story. Perhaps, for me, the pandemic has reinforced the human need of having someone who is there for you, and who really cares about you. Psychologist-turned-first-time author Kate Albus has clearly employed her awareness of what makes people tick to craft a cast of memorable characters, characters with real emotions. Amid a historical fiction orphan tale that exudes a traditional tone, A PLACE TO HANG THE MOON clearly benefits from the author's deep understanding of family, sibling relationships, and the harms that result from prejudice, bullying, and war.

Recommended by:  Richie Partington, MLIS, California USA

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