The International Writers Magazine:
Moon by Rachel Anderson
Paperback 256 pages (April 6, 2006)
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books
Vanessa Hyde review
is no question that Rachel Anderson, the winner of the Guardian
Childrens Fiction Award, has delivered a brave novel Red
Moon. This faces the awkward issues of race, prejudice, bullying,
death and identity. Every parent would marvel at such a book which
could provide a basic set up of answers in a moral tale for their
after reading Red Moon I am not so sure that children aged Id
say, eleven onwards would really engage with this story.
Initially Hamish is not a likeable character, despite the fact he is
bullied and experiences not the most ordinary life with his intellectual
French mother and overpowering Scottish father. He unfortunately is
presented as one of the kids you knew at school that was geeky but never
seemed to want to help themselves. All kids like to identify or even
imagine themselves being the central character of the story they read,
that is, if the little hero of the book seems "cool" or up
for an adventure. The reality is that little Hamish, bless him, is too
sarcastic and negative for someone his age to really respond too and
The fact that Hamish is bullied conjures up pity and evokes sympathy
from the reader, this is a helpful way for children to learn ethics
of bullying with their peers in the classroom and comprehend even more
the suffering of those who experience being bullied. Unfortunately the
vocabulary also is quite advanced for a young readership, even myself
an English student had to ponder over the meaning of a few words.
The element of this book which makes it worth reading is its probably
one of the first childrens novels that educates and provides children
with an insight as to what other children and people suffer from experiencing
and emigrating from war or poverty zones. It likely would have been
difficult writing for children about a subject which is sensitive and
political without trying to be upsetting or lacking detail. Anderson
cleverly has portrayed one of the worlds most current debated
issues to children in a simple and comfortable way for them to understand.
The fact she writes Hamishs narrative and then contrasts it with
Ahmeds narrative will highlight to the readers the difference
in lifestyles both boys have. Ahmed's family try to flee Africa to go
to Europe and a better life. After Hamish's stepfather dies Hamish's
mother has an opportunity to study in France and takes Hamish along
with her to the University by the sea. Hamish discovers that no one
likes 'strangers' here and seem indifferent to the plight of refugees.
Ahmed gets onto a boat with his family after a lot of money has changed
hands and the boat sinks. He alone reaches the shores of France and
discovers that although he is alive he is completely ignored, as a piece
of driftwood that people would like to plunge back into the sea.
Both boys have lost a parent in different methods. Many children about
to encounter adolescence will endure feelings such as being lost, alone,
confused at the world and not fully understanding the worlds ways
at some point.
The best outcome of the story is the fact that after some hestitation
and awkwardness Hamish learns to help Ahmed. First he tries to give
him food, but Ahmed needs more, he needs guidance and Hamish isn't sure
he is up to that at all. Red Moon inspires us to acknowledge
the suffering of others in cultures different from our own and encourages
children to think beyond the boundaries. Im sure teachers would
find this book a useful book to dip into and point out the scenarios
to help children to learn about war, racism and famine. Though the reality
is a harsh one to become accustomed too, everyone, old or young needs
to prepare for what could be ahead.
In the end Hamish realises he has to help Ahmed get to England and he
becomes a better person because of Ahmed. It's a shame, I sense his
redemption comes too late in the story because Im not sure if
a child reading this will persevere unto the end.
© Venessa Hyde March 20th 2006
Vanessa is 2nd year Creative Arts student at the University of Portsmouth
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