blowout
Blow Out the Moon
Author: Libby Koponen
Pages: 225
Publisher/Date: Little, Brown/Time Warner Book Group/2004
ISBN: 0316614432
Age Levels: 8-12

Book Review

Set in England in the 1950s, this endearing tale is a wonderful mixture of memoir and fiction. Libby, the main character, is forced to move for a time with her family to England. While she enjoys some aspects of this new venue, life is not quite as easy as it had been in America. Libby is not popular with her classmates, nor her teachers (who make fun of her accent, her ideas, and her bangs). Things get better, however, when she is sent to a boarding school in the countryside.

At the boarding school—Sibton Park—she makes friends, is trained how to ride a horse, and learns how to speak, eat, and behave as a proper lady might. One simply does not, for example, comment on the food one is served. And to her credit Libby does not, even though "the English idea of spaghetti" is a plate of "plain spaghetti and a small pitcher of completely smooth, very runny ketchup to pour on top."

The descriptions of time and place are wonderfully vivid. Readers will slip slowly into Libby's world without realizing it. Soon the words on the page disappear and you are there with her, in the garden, sitting under an old oak, the sun making "little wavering patches of light and shadows on the lawn," the grass warm to the touch.

At story's end Libby and her family move back to America. There, she realizes she is not the same person as when she left. Back in her old school, she glances at the tall windows that went almost to the ceiling. "I'd never liked how much sky you could see (it was too blank)," Libby writes. But now, she realizes, she did enjoy the "bright blank blue sky." It was "filled with light and wide open to everything. I felt that way, too; and bursting with energy."

The text is interspersed with sidebars, black and white photographs, and illustrations which help readers picture the scenes and visualize unfamiliar items—such as Wellington boots and lemon curd.

The story is deftly written. It never lapses into sentimentality nor does it ever veer from the child's-eye view. Libby's voice shines through—honest and authentic. At heart, this is a moving portrait of growing up, formative moments, and lessons learned.

Reviewed by the teachers at Education Oasis.
©2004 Education Oasis® http://www.educationoasis.com


About the Author

Libby Koponen did go to boarding school in England and, later, in America, where she continued to write and to ride horses. When she grew up, she became the godmother and honorary aunt of many children. Libby has traveled all over the world and ridden horses on every continent except Antarctica. She received her MFA in writing from Brown University. She lives in Boston. Blow Out the Moon is her first published book.

Resources

Visit the author's website.

Read an Education Oasis interview with the author.