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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Readers will gain an understanding of what it is like to live In a remote village in Malawi, Africa, with its limited water supply, lack of school supplies, different foods, and close-knit community. Clare must learn to speak Chichewa, the Malawi language, while she is there, and a short glossary is included in the back of the book. In an Author's Note, author Burg recounts her personal experiences researching schools in Malawi and explains what inspired her to write the book. A recipe for mbatata (sweet potato) biscuits is also included.
Clare learns that although tragedy and loss are inevitable parts of life, it's also necessary to "laugh with the moon," as her friend Memory tells her. Clare's experiences with another culture remind her of the privilege she's grown up with, and by reaching out to help those less fortunate, she finds solace and comfort for herself.
Positive Role Models
Claire is a loving, responsible daughter, though initially angry at her father for taking her from her Boston home to Africa. She immediately identifies with her new classmates despite their vastly different life experiences, and she befriends them by being helpful and creative. Her new friend Memory has suffered even more loss than Clare but is incredibly supportive and generous. All the children are depicted as intelligent, hardworking students who nevertheless understand that they must sometimes sacrifice their studies to work and help support their families.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Laugh With the Moon is the story of a 13-year-old Boston girl who is grieving the recent, sudden death of her mother and adjusting to village life in Malawi, Africa, where her doctor father has come to work in a clinic. It's a story of friendship and coping with grief, with some intense moments for younger readers: A young boy dies of malaria due to lack proper medicine. Some dangerous animals are present in the nearby bush, but most are seen at a distance.
Is It Any Good?
The characters in Laugh with the Moon are immensely likable, from Clare and her new classmates to her father and their housekeeper Mrs. Bwanali. Clare's experiences in the new setting are interesting and well described, and the new relationships she forges with the other children will be familiar to most middle school students, no matter what country they're from. However, perhaps because it is a story more about daily life than action-packed sequences, the pacing sometimes feels uneven or disjointed. Still, Clare's growing bravery and willingness to take chances will keep readers interested, as will the perilous situation she and her friends eveuntually find themselves in.
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.