Laugh with the Moon

Book Reviews

Laugh with the Moon.
Burg, Shana (author).
June 2012. 256p. Delacorte, hardcover, $16.99 (9780385734714); library edition, $19.99 (9780385904698); Delacorte, e-book, $16.99 (9780375985683). Grades 4-7. REVIEW.  First published June 1, 2012 (Booklist).

Deep in sorrow after the death of her mother, Clare, 13, is furious with her physician father for dragging her with him from their home in Boston to Malawi, where he works in a hospital. She gives him the silent treatment and talks to her mother in her head until, slowly, she begins to make friends, help out in the crowded school, and get drawn into the local people’s struggle with severe poverty. Burg has worked in Malawi, and she writes from an insider’s viewpoint about the harshness of daily life with little food, running water, or electricity, and also about the richness of Malawi’s culture and community. Yes, there are the scary encounters in the wild, including with an elephant, but because Burg focuses on universals, readers will easily connect with Clare as she makes enemies as well as friends and confronts overwhelming grief in her own family and others. — Hazel Rochman

Horn Book Guide:
Burg, Shana Laugh with the Moon
  247 pp. Delacorte 2012. ISBN 978-0-385-73471-4 LE ISBN 978-0-385-90469-8
(3) 4-6 Clare Silver must be the only girl in America whose father could think he can take her mind off her mother’s death by dragging her to Malawi, the “warm heart of Africa.” And just when Clare starts to feel like she’s fitting in, another tragedy strikes. Well-drawn characters and a unique setting will not only make readers care about Clare’s life but perhaps re-evaluate their own.

Reprinted from The Horn Book Magazine [or Guide, as applicable] by permission of The Horn Book, Inc.,

Burg, Shana Laugh with the Moon. Delacorte, 2012 [256p]
Library ed. ISBN 978-0-385-90469-8 $19.99
Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-385-73471-4 $16.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-375-98568-3 $10.99
Reviewed from galleys Ad Gr.7-10

Less than a year after losing her mother, thirteen-year-old Clare finds herself on a plane to Malawi alongside her father for a several-month stay, and she is none too happy about it. What appears at first to be teenage petulance is in fact deep-seated resentment that her father appears to have recovered from Clare’s mother’s death, and Clare cannot forgive him for moving on. While attending school, Clare finds herself particularly drawn to Memory, a girl who, like Clare, has lost her mother. More sadness comes to Memory’s family, though, after her younger brother falls ill while on a trip with the girls and dies in the very hospital where Clare’s father is working, Clare must come to terms with death once again. The novel is strongest in its presentation of loss and mourning; Clare’s emotions in dealing with her mother are raw (her mother often appears and speaks to her in dreamlike sequences), and the additional loss of Innocent brings many of those feelings back. Unfortunately, the story spends too much time developing Clare as a whiny, privileged American for the sole purpose of bringing her around by the novel’s end, and the trajectory is both didactic and predictable. Still, Clare eventually becomes a likable protagonist, and readers may enjoy experiencing her growth in the richly detailed Malawian setting. An author’s note is included.  HM

School Library Journal:
 BURG, Shana. Laugh with the Moon. 246p. Delacorte. June 2012. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-385-73471-4; PLB $19.99. ISBN 978-0-385-90469-8; ebook $10.99. ISBN 978-0-375-98568-3.

Gr 4-8–Thirteen-year-old Clare Silver is still wrapped up in her own personal tragedy when her father, a medical doctor, whisks her along on his journey to Africa as part of a two-month visit to work in a local clinic. While he relishes the smell of jasmine after a soaking rain, sleeping under a mosquito net, and reuniting with old friends, the only thing Clare sees in Malawi is isolation and loneliness. With no cell-phone reception and a new home that doesn’t even keep out the rain, let alone local wildlife, Clare can’t even text her friends to tell them how she feels like a prisoner in this strange land. Her first day at the Mzanga Full Primary School opens her eyes to daily life in this small country, and her new friend, Memory, helps her bridge the cultural gap. In this new world that first seemed devoid of all necessities like computers, cell phones, and department stores, Clare begins to learn the value of friendship and the wonderment of finding your place in the world. This is a heartfelt story of love and loss told through the eyes of an American girl who learns about true friendship and heartbreak at a school where students have few supplies but an abundance of understanding. When tragedy strikes again, it’s Clare’s African friends who help her find comfort and strength when sometimes all one can hope for is to laugh with the moon. This lyrical story will be consumed in one long sitting, but the characters will stay with readers for a very long time.-Cheryl Ashton, Amherst Public Library, OH


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