Moon Pie by Simon Mason

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Moon Pie by Simon Mason

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Lovely, bittersweet story of a family dealing with alcoholism. Funny, sad and truthful and perfectly judged. We loved it.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 336 Date: April 2011
Publisher: David Fickling
ISBN: 0385618514

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When I'm older, she thought, I'll remember this midnight picnic as a good thing. I'll forget that I was scared of the dark and that Dad was strange. I'll remember the candles in the grass, like flowers made out of flame, and Tug dreaming of pie, and Dad telling me he loves me.

Poor Martha. She's only eleven and she's so used to being the person who copes that it's become second nature to her. To keep herself focused, she writes lists:

Tidy the house. Make tea. Put Tug to bed. Make Dad like he was before.

Before, means when Mum was still around. But Mum isn't around. She died. And now Martha has to cope because Tug is too small and Dad is too strange. Everything else has changed too: they live in a smaller, meaner house; Dad doesn't go to work any more; they don't see Grandma and Grandpa at all. And Dad is getting stranger by the minute. He doesn't get up and make them breakfast but he does get them out of bed in the middle of the night and take them to the park for a picnic. He doesn't remember the house keys but he does climb up on the roof to break in and fall back off again. And even more worrying: he's started to disappear at random times, and when he reappears he's very strange. Loud and manic, and not like the old Dad at all.

So eleven-year-old Martha is left to cook, clean and take care of five-year-old Tug. And you know it can't go on, don't you? Eventually, it dawns on Martha that her father has become an alcoholic, and no matter how well she copes or how much she covers it up, it dawns on Social Services too...

I loved this gorgeous little book. Its subject is dreadfully dour, but it's not a dour book at all. Firstly, no matter the faults of the adults in the book - and they are legion - the genuine love in the family shines through. It's always clear that where there's love, there's hope. This is an important message at any time, but it's crucial when you're writing for tweens and pre-tweens. Secondly, Simon Mason has an enviable lightness of touch. He can write about a midnight picnic so that it makes you smile even though you know it's actually a very dark event, symptomatic of how dangerous Martha's father's drinking has become. And thirdly, there's a wonderful cast of larger-than-life supporting characters. My favourite is Marcus, Martha's crossdressing, camp-as-a-row-of-tents schoolfriend who's obsessed with film-making and who prances and dances around the pages of the book like a junior Ken Russell.

For all these reasons, Moon Pie is a joy to read. But it's serious, too, and I laughed and cringed and cried my way through it. Mason has extended a degree of protection to his young readers by creating a story with some ridiculous characters and unlikely events, but the core of it is utterly truthful. A delicate balance and one that, for me, was perfectly struck.

Highly recommended.

My thanks to the good people at David Fickling for sending the book.

The Truth About Leo by David Yelland is another very affecting book about the loss of a parent and the effect of alcoholism on children. The Illustrated Mum by Jacqueline Wilson talks about a parent with bipolar disorder and is from the perspective of the younger, rather than the older, of two siblings.

Booklists.jpg Moon Pie by Simon Mason is in the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize 2011.
Buy Moon Pie by Simon Mason at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Moon Pie by Simon Mason at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Moon Pie by Simon Mason at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Moon Pie by Simon Mason at Amazon.com.


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