Thursday, December 04, 2014

Book Review: West of the Moon

WEST OF THE MOON by Margi Preus is a unique combination of traditional folktale and historical fiction. 

Set in the mountains and forests of Norway, a young girl seeks to escape to America to join her father. The author masterfully weaves together traditional folktales and a young girl’s dreams into a rich story of determination and a quest for a better life. The prose is beautifully written and fits perfectly with the story’s themes.

This dark story for middle grade children shows the harsh reality of hunger, child labor, and cruelty often glossed over in the folktales found in picture books. Preus skillfully examines the difficult decisions that must be made in desperate situations. The book provides a wonderful opportunity to talk with students about folktales along with the stark reality of the immigrant experience. Often our social studies curriculum explores the lives of immigrants without providing the context of their lives prior to their decision to seek a new life in another county.

This well-research work includes an excellent Author’s Note at the end of the book. This section connects the story to the author’s family heritage. It also provides insights into some of the historical aspects including topics such as rickets, tetanus, cholera, and charm books. Finally, it discusses the many folktales references in the book. Youth will have fun connecting the specific folktales with incidents in book.

The unique combination of myth and reality makes WEST OF THE MOON a book to revisit as you put together your “best of 2014” list.

With recent interest in stories related to the Brother’s Grimm, this book is one that may expand this interest into other regional folklore.

To learn more about the author, go to