Moonpenny Island

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Moonpenny Island Book Poster Image
Strong messages, role models in absorbing coming-of-ager.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Spanish words and phrases, such as "dios mio" and "loca," given without translation. Geology and archeology of an island in an unnamed Great Lake briefly explained, and some Latin and common names for fossils given. Importance of Darwin and his work explained. Trilobites defined and characteristics explained. Amniotic band syndrome explained.

Positive Messages

Prominent themes of family loyalty and friendship. Hating someone can become a habit much like loving someone. Letting go of a feeling is hard and it hurts, but sometimes it's the only way forward.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Flor, 11, is proud of her ability to exercise self-control when she gets mad. She's inquisitive and fiercely loyal and seeks the truth. Jasper models intellectual curiosity and resilience and, although shy about her physical difference, doesn't let the lack of one hand inhibit her physical activity. Flor's older sister, Cecilia, flirts with rebellion but also is loyal, loving, and supportive. Flor's father is responsible, supportive, loving, and fair-minded. Her mother is largely absent but loving and protective of the family when she's present.

Violence & Scariness

Scary descriptions of darkness, creepy fog, falling into dark water. Speculation about dead bodies and fish swimming through skulls. Flor's in peril of drowning once and is violently and painfully grabbed by a teen boy once.

Language

"Butt" four or five times.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Moonpenny Island proffers very little to be concerned about. The strong female protagonist is in peril once, and there are a couple of scary descriptions of the dark. Strong themes about family, friendship, and loyalty present positive messages. There are no villains and lots of positive role models.

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What's the story?

Eleven-year-old Flor knows her small home town of Moonpenny Island like she knows the back of her hand. But now that she's moved up into sixth grade, she's starting to realize that even those closest to her are harboring secrets. When her best and perfect friend Sylvie leaves to go to school on the mainland, Flor has never felt so alone. Meanwhile, her parents seem to argue more and more, and teen sister Cecilia's behaving less than perfectly lately. Can Flor find out the truth about what's going on and, more important, the truth about herself?

Is it any good?

MOONPENNY ISLAND is an absorbing and intriguing early coming-of-age story that big kids and tweens will really relate to. Heroine Flor, who's 11, faces all kinds of loss at the same time her understanding of her world and her place in it is evolving and deepening. Strong family bonds and colorful, intriguing characters round out the vivid small-town world created by author Tricia Springstubb.

Some of the symbolism and metaphor (the town clock that hasn't worked in years, Flor's scary dreams in which she's about to fall from a ledge) provide a great introduction to those literary devices for younger readers. The plot and intrigue unfold at a steady pace that builds nicely and keeps the pages turning. The ending's a bit abrupt, but it will encourage further thought about what Flor's future will hold.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about growing up. Flor worries that she'll change into someone else. What kinds of things have you wondered about yourself as you've been growing up?

  • How is Moonpenny Island similar to or different from other books about middle school kids you've read? 

  • Would you like to live in a place like Moonpenny Island? Why, or why not?

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