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Reviews of "Racing the Moon"

Michelle Morgan - Friday, May 23, 2014

This is what some reviewers had to say about Racing the Moon:

“Racing the Moon is confronting Young Adult fiction and readers of any age will be captivated by Joe, who wins our admiration as a stoic and heroic figure." (Deb Robins, ReadPlus, 28 April 2014).

"Beautifully written, this book is a great read for 10 to 15 year-olds. I would recommend it to read aloud to a class. It has humour, history and plenty of childhood escapades to keep the listener engaged." (Nova Gibson, Massey Primary, Allen & Unwin Teacher Reviews, April 2014)

“Set in Sydney during the Great Depression, this is a beautifully written, well-researched and deeply engaging story." (Wendy Noble, Good Reading, April 2014)

"This story is skilfully written, the pace is swift and it kept me so engaged I finished it in two sittings.”... “This is an auspicious start to what could be a lengthy career as a writer for the YA market and I look forward to reading more of Michelle's work." (Barbara Braxton, ReadPlus, 17 March 2014).

“Potentially confronting strong topics such as domestic violence and sexual abuse are treated sensitively for the intended readership, so with its feisty hero and interesting characters and events, this engaging novel is recommended for Upper Primary to Lower Secondary readers.” (Chloe Mauger, Magpies, vol. 29, Issue no.1, March 2014, p. 38.)

“Racing the Moon is a captivating historical narrative set in the Great Depression. Morgan has created a refreshingly frank and necessary narrative we must read and you are guaranteed not to be disappointed.” (All the Buzz about Books, Issue 1, 2014, p. 4)

"I would recommend this story for young people who enjoy character-driven historical fiction. Clear and compelling, this book will leave its audience with a genuine feel for life during the Depression." (Ann Harth, Buzz Words, 6 Feb 2014)

There are also excellent Teachers' notes by Fran Knight on the Allen & Unwin website.

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Review of "Racing the Moon" on ReadPlus

Michelle Morgan - Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Barbara Braxton's review of Racing the Moon that was previously published on this blog is now on the ReadPlus website.

Barbara says: "This story is skilfully written, the pace is swift and it kept me so engaged I finished it in two sittings." She also discusses whether Racing the Moon, which is recommended for readers 12 to 14 years, is suitable for Year 6 students.

In view of the allusions in the story to child sexual abuse, she believes "it is essential that such things should not be neglected especially as they are an integral part of the story, but you need to be aware that it could cause questions to be asked. If I were still in my primary library, it would be on the shelf with a Senior Fiction sticker on it."

In conclusion, Barbara states, "this is an auspicious start to what could be a lengthy career as a writer for the YA market and I look forward to reading more of Michelle's work."

Thank you Barbara!

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Review by Barbara Braxton of "Racing the Moon"

Michelle Morgan - Thursday, February 27, 2014

REVIEW: Racing the Moon by Michelle Morgan, Allen & Unwin, 2014

It is the year that Donald Bradman scored 334 runs against England in the third Test; the year that Phar Lap won the Melbourne Cup; the year that each end of the Sydney Harbour Bridge met and the year that Australia was thrown further and further into the Depression after the collapse of Wall Street and the impact of world’s economic woes was widespread. Growing up in those times was hard, pleasures were few and struggles persistent.

But nevertheless, 12-year-old Joe Riley still thinks the world is his oyster. Living in Glebe in Sydney, he’s got a couple of thriving businesses going with his mate that make him enough pocket money to get by, while his father makes his living a step in front of the law as a bookie. Even though his father gets drunk and bashes Joe’s mother, and is quick to take off his belt and deliver corporal punishment whenever he thinks Joe has crossed the line, that’s an accepted way of life in these times and while he steps into save his mum, Joe takes the rest of it in his stride. It is what it is and it’s no different for his mates.

But one night, Joe’s father drops a bombshell – instead of going to the local high school, Joe will go to boarding school at St Bartholomew’s on the other side of the harbour. Clearly his form of discipline hasn’t prevented Joe from getting into trouble – trouble that comes too close to home for his father’s liking. Alone, friendless and in trouble with prefects and brothers for the slightest indiscretion, St Barts turns out to be the epitome of the tough, brutal, unforgiving Catholic boys’ school that has been the subject of news headlines and government inquiries lately, and includes Brother Felix who takes a greater interest in Joe than he should. Protecting himself, Joe lashes out and finds himself on the train to The Farm – an isolated reformatory school with no escape options. And it is here that Joe discovers joy through hard work and responsibility, and an inner strength that he didn’t know he had.

While this is her first novel, Michelle Morgan, a librarian from the NSW Southern Highlands, is an experienced writer having had four of her plays produced and performed. The story of Joe is the result of the stories her uncle told her about growing up in suburban Sydney in the 30s and if you looked up "larrikin" in a dictionary you might see the definition as "Joe Riley". He’s that rough-and-tumble, knockabout, free-spirited lad that we think of in those times – old enough to be independent but not yet an adult of 14 and expected to work to support the family. This story is a great insight into life in those times, and great background for the history focus for Year 6. Certainly it’s a great vehicle for comparing and contrasting childhood then and now. I loved the uplifting and reaffirming way that Joe rises above challenges to triumph – his burning of the hated St Barts uniform is a mirror of what I did on my last day of school. Joe, indeed, races the moon both literally and figuratively.

This story is skilfully written, the pace is swift and it kept me so engaged I finished it in two sittings. As I was reading it, particularly the section about St Barts, I kept asking myself if this would be suitable for a primary school audience, because although it is not explicit, there is a clear allusion to Brother Felix’s intentions and I wondered if parents might feel confronted if their child asked them about this.  But I’ve decided that I’m reading it from an adult perspective, one that has more information than that of a child, and so maybe it won’t be such an issue. I believe it is essential that such things should not be neglected especially as they are an integral part of the story, but you need to be aware that it could cause questions to be asked. If I were still in my primary library, it would be on the shelf with a Senior Fiction sticker on it (probably more to protect me than the student). And given the "inappropriate touching" is a part of the health curriculum from Kindergarten, perhaps I’m being overly cautious.

Nevertheless, this is an auspicious start to what could be a lengthy career as a writer for the YA market and I look forward to reading more of Michelle’s work.

Barbara Braxton, Teacher Librarian, M.Ed.(TL), M.App.Sci.(TL), M.I.S. (Children's Services)

http://thebottomshelf.edublogs.org/

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