A Place to Hang the Moon
By Mary Eisenhart,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Bookish orphan sibs seek family in old-school WWII tale.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
The story is set in 1940, as World War II begins to take a toll on England, and is packed with detail about daily realities from rationing to outdoor privies and backyard bomb shelters as city kids deal with life in the country with their reluctant hosts. The Pearce kids are avid readers who draw their worldview from books, which play a large part as the story unfolds and are listed for would-be readers at the end. Anna in particular grapples with big words like "capitulation." A comic interlude (and valuable lesson) has the kids figuring out how to change a baby's diaper -- and getting peed in the face.
Strong messages of family, friendship, kindness, and standing up against bullying. Plus old-fashioned common sense like "Stubbornness can serve one well at times. This was not one of those times." The importance of books and reading is a strong theme. "Fibs, you must know, are entirely acceptable when they serve the purpose of getting one to the library."
Positive Role Models
The orphaned Pearce kids are smart, kind, resourceful, and devoted to each other as they cope with some genuinely horrible host family members including bullying kids, a man who finds a way to keep good food on his own family's table in spite of rationing, and a woman whose reaction to the news that France has fallen to the Nazis is to wonder whether she'll still be able to get French perfume. They often respond to difficult situations with kindness and empathy, which is often rewarded but sometimes abused. Two distant but caring adults -- the family lawyer and their former housekeeper -- hover protectively in the background. And Mrs. Müller, the kind librarian, gives them much-needed nurturing despite being the victim of prejudice because her husband, who hasn't been seen for three years, is German.
Violence & Scariness
There's a long, horrific scene in which the boys are forced to kill rats against their will on a farm. The kids suffer verbal abuse, name-calling, bullying, and near starvation from their "host" families, and when it comes to being hit and bloodied, they flee; one of them also leaves a dead snake in the bed of his tormentor. The violence of the war hangs over the story -- London is being bombed; husbands of beloved characters are killed overseas; the City of Benares, carrying refugee children to Canada, is sunk by the Germans. One of the kids gets lice from a coat at a clothing swap. To everyone's amazement, William punches someone who's bullying and attacking Edmund.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A girl his age flirts with 12-year-old William, who wants nothing to do with it or her, pretty much. The tale of Lady Godiva's naked ride causes great excitement at school.
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Bullying locals call the evacuated kids "filthy vackies."
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Products & Purchases
Kids are fond of Cadbury bars.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that A Place to Hang the Moon, by Kate Albus, is the story of three orphaned siblings, ages 12, 11, and 9, evacuated to the countryside from London in 1940, at the beginning of World War II. Their parents have been dead since the youngest was a baby, only the oldest remembers them at all, and as the story opens, their unloving grandmother has just died. They hope to find a family to take them in, but instead suffer physical and verbal abuse, beatings from bullying kids, overwork and starvation at the hands of their "host" families. Wartime violence looms everywhere. Overseas husbands of beloved characters are killed, a ship of refugee children is sunk by the Nazis. A lengthy, horrifically detailed scene finds the two boys forced against their will to bludgeon terrified, defenseless rats to death. A English woman whose missing husband is German gets a lot of nasty prejudice from her neighbors, and the evacuees (aka "vackies") do as well. Fortifying them against all this darkness are, in the background, the family lawyer and the elderly housekeeper who loves them and, closer to home, the librarian who feeds their love of books and their book-inspired dreams of home.
Where to Read
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What's the Story?
A PLACE TO HANG THE MOON opens in London in June of 1940, as World War II is getting serious. Also getting serious is the situation of William, Edmund, and Anna Pearce (ages 12, 11, and 9), whose last living relative, their grandmother, has just died. She never cared for them, but now they've got no one. On the plus side, they've got a sizable inheritance and a family solicitor who advises them that their best hope of finding a real guardian is to join the evacuation of schoolchildren from London to the countryside, where they may find a nice family that wants to keep them -- but to keep quiet about the inheritance until they're sure they've found the right home. Since only William is old enough to remember having parents at all, and one of the important things is that their mom thought they hung the moon, they hope to find someone who feels the same, but instead get a lot of bullying and bad treatment. Will they be able to stay together against the odds and get through this?
Is It Any Good?
There's a charming, old-fashioned, bookish vibe to Kate Albus' tale of orphaned, book-loving siblings in search of a new family, evacuated to the British countryside at the beginning of World War II. Kids who love the retro feel of early 20th century classics, from The Story of Ferdinand to A Little Princess, will be right at home in A Place to Hang the Moon. William, Edmund, and Anna lost their parents at an early age and have never known a proper home, but being avid readers they have a clear idea what it should be like based on their favorite stories. What they find in the countryside is much harsher -- but also there's kindness, a glimmer of hope, and something to cheer for as they connect with the local librarian.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about orphan stories like A Place to Hang the Moon, and why they're so popular. A character in the story speculates that kids love to imagine themselves living free of adult supervision or restriction. Do you agree, or think it's something else?
How would you feel if some disaster made it necessary for you to live apart from your family, with strangers? Would it be a grand adventure or a horrible experience?
What other stories have you read about kids in World War II? How does A Place to Hang the Moon compare?
- Author: Kate Albus
- Genre: Historical Fiction
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models, History
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Margaret Ferguson Books
- Publication date: February 2, 2021
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 9 - 12
- Number of pages: 320
- Available on: Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: March 4, 2021
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