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The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What 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.
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What's the story?
In LAUGH WITH THE MOON, 13-year-old Clare is taken to Malawi, Africa, by her doctor father in hopes that the new setting may help both of them recover from the loss of Clare's mother, who died recently of a heart attack. While her father begins work at the local clinic, Clare must attend the village school. Though at first she feels out of place as the only non-African student, she immediately finds a kindred spirit in Memory, a smart and fun girl who has experienced loss that Clare can relate to. As Clare settles into village living, she becomes accustomed to eating cooked pumpkin for breakfast, sleeping under a malaria net, and seeing giant monkeys walking the dirt roads alongside people. When a teacher leaves unexpectedly, the principal of her school asks her if she'll help teach English to the first graders. Clare is nervous and scared but decides to take on the challenge, learning much about herself in the process. With Memory's support, she's able to both accept her grief and move on from it, finally understanding that \"grief isn’t a tunnel you walk through and you’re done.\"
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how different Clare's African village school experience is compared with what she's used to. If you had to attend Mzanga Full Primary, what do you think would be the hardest aspect to get used to?
What other stories have you read or seen on film about a kid who lost a parent? Can you imagine what that might feel like?
Clare often turns to her drawings and paintings to comfort herself when she feels sad. What do you do when you need to comfort yourself?
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