Parents' Guide to

How High the Moon

By Barbara Saunders, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 8+

Girl seeks family secrets in hopeful Jim Crow-era tale.

How High the Moon Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this book.

Community Reviews

age 7+

Based on 1 parent review

age 7+

Could Not Be More Relevant Today!

This is an incredible read with so many talking points and opportunities for further learning springing from it. For those with no knowledge of jazz, following up on the songs littered throughout this text will add a beautiful extension to reading - yes the book title is also a song title and the connections between the story's Ella and Ella Fitzgerald who also sang this song, are too good not to expound upon. There are some desperately sad moments in this book. The wrongful conviction and death of a young black teen (it's based upon the real story), the impact it has on the community, the finding of a family lynched in a tree, the assault on the story's young heroine are all moments that distressed me as a parent reading, but which not not affect my daughter in quite the same way. She was angered which I suppose I ought be proud of, but the hardest question she asked of me was, "Why didn't everyone want to leave the south if the white people there were so awful to them? Are they nicer now?" and that led to even more in-depth conversations about economics and family and social structures. You could read this book and enjoy it as a stand alone book, but I suspect most young people will have more questions than answers upon finishing it, so be prepared to do some home work and enjoy the kind of discussions we should be having with our kids at this moment in time. Sadly relevant in 2020. Not a new name or face but new author to follow for sure.

This title has:

Educational value
Great messages
Great role models

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (1 ):
Kids say (1 ):

This heartfelt tale about childhood in the Jim Crow South brings us a girl who finds a sense of family despite an absent mother, a mystery father, and a cruel society. How High the Moon, the debut novel from Karyn Parsons, grew out of a conversation the author had with her mother. Parsons wondered how her mother could claim she had a happy childhood when she grew up in the South under Jim Crow. The subplot about the boy who's wrongfully executed comes from a real legal case. The strength of the novel is the character of Ella: Her close relationship with her grandmother, longing to be with her mother, and desperation to know who her father is all ring true.

There are two main weaknesses. First, the author chose to have each of the three children narrate chapters. However, this isn't quite balanced, since Ella's clearly the main character and the other narrators and their perspectives are not as well developed. This technique seems like a clumsy way of providing backstory. Second, a few of the Jim Crow stories seem like rehashed scenes from To Kill A Mockingbird.

Book Details

Did we miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate