Book Review : Maggot Moon

Maggot MoonMaggot Moon by Sally Gardner. 9780763665531. February 12, 2013. Gr 7-10.

“I’m wondering what if…the football hadn’t gone over the wall.”

Fifteen-year-old Standish Treadwell lives in the Motherland, a dystopian society similar to Nazi Germany.  He lives with his grandfather in Zone Seven, the area for people who don’t quite toe the party line.  A year earlier, the government’s goons dragged his mother away—and when she came back, she was changed.  His parents disappeared soon afterward.

Standish has problems in school, not the least of which are the bullies who taunt him with the rhyme:  “Can’t read, can’t write / Standish Treadwell isn’t bright.”  But though he can’t read or write, he isn’t stupid.  He understands that things aren’t right in his society, and he knows how to keep under the radar and out of trouble with the authorities.  His best friend Hector says that Standish isn’t like all the “train-track thinkers.”

Hector and Standish are neighbors, and next to their houses is a wall, a very tall wall, around something very secret—and in the Motherland, it is dangerous to ask or even talk about secrets.  The boys know of a hidden tunnel which leads to the other side of the wall, but they are not stupid…until the football goes over the wall and Hector sneaks through the tunnel .

Now Standish is telling his story—but not on paper.  He would never be that crazy.  But he is afraid.  Hector and his family have disappeared, and not even his grandpa will answer Standish’s questions.  Why are they gone?  What did Hector see when he retrieved the football?  What is going on behind the wall?  And how long can they keep it secret that they are hiding someone in their basement?

And the most important question, can Standish do anything to make the rest of the world understand what is going on?

Maggot Moon captured me from the first page.  The voice of the dyslexic narrator, Standish, is clear and true…which is not surprising since the author is dyslexic herself and advocates for finding a better way to educate children with dyslexia.  She talks about the book and dyslexia in this interview with Publishers Weekly.  And check out the video on the Maggot Moon website to see how a page of print looks to someone with dyslexia.  I was surprised to find that reading for them is far worse than just a matter of mixed up letters.

This book would be a great discussion starter on authoritarianism, accompanying a unit on Nazi Germany or Stalinism.  Also, talking about Standish’s way of thinking could be helpful in a creative thinking class.  And it is an awesome book for anyone who likes dystopian fiction.

(Quotations are taken from an advance reading copy provided by the publisher.)

TraceyBlogger : Tracey L.