Unhooking the Moon

Book review by
Sally Engelfried, Common Sense Media
Unhooking the Moon Book Poster Image
Fast-paced adventure of orphan siblings on quest in NYC.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

This far-fetched adventure story seeks to entertain more than to educate, but readers may learn a bit of geography as the main characters travel from the flatlands of Winnipeg to the boroughs of New York City.

Positive Messages

Stick by your family, no matter who or what tries to come between you. Watch out for those less fortunate than you. Don't make assumptions about people based on their professions or positions in life.

Positive Role Models & Representations

When 10-year-old Marie Claire, more commonly called the Rat, decides to hop a freight train to New York, camp out in Central Park, or befriend hustlers in Times Square, all based on her mystical premonitions, her big brother, Bob, has no choice but to follow her, whether or not he sees any sense in what she's doing. Though Bob knows from experience that the Rat usually lands on her feet, her choices would be questionable for the average kid.

Violence

Before the events of Unhooking the Moon, a pedophile murders the Rat's best friend; the Rat's dad explains that pedophiles are "monsters that hurt children." The Rat senses that several of the threatening characters she and Bob encounter are pedophiles, but they manage to escape before confirming her premonitions. Rat is taken by a group of grown-ups who pretend to be caretakers of orphans but in reality are pedophiles and murderers. In one scene, several people shoot guns; one person is shot, and another is knifed. When a friend is mugged, a fistfight erupts. Rat and Bob's dad is beaten up in a bar fight.

Sex

There are frequent references to pedophiles, but the term is never explicitly defined. Bob talks about his crush on a pretty teacher seven years his senior.

Language

Many occurrences of "goddamn." Rat "bleeps" instead of using stronger language.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

An alcoholic who's usually "soused," the Rat and Bob's dad still manages to be a loving and protective father before he dies. The uncle they're searching for is reputed to be a big-time drug dealer; there are references to junkies and other drug users but no direct interactions with them.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Unhooking the Moon is about two Canadian kids on their own in New York City, in search of an uncle they've never met. The kids hop a freight train, take rides from strangers, lie to authorities, hustle people for money, and camp out in Central Park, among other inadvisable activities. They have several narrow escapes from danger, including encounters with pedophiles. The book's tall-tale flavor and the Rat's mystical premonitions and prophetic dreams let readers recognize Unhooking the Moon as an adventure story that, though grounded in the real world, isn't necessarily supposed to be realistic. However, the ending may disturb those who expect the story to be ultimately lighthearted.

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What's the story?

When their father dies at the beginning of UNHOOKING THE MOON, siblings Bob and Marie Claire (aka the Rat) decide to journey on their own from Winnipeg, Canada, to New York City in search of their dad's estranged brother. Besides a penchant for crazy schemes and an addiction to mochas, 10-year-old Rat has a talent for befriending colorful characters, including a cigar smuggler, a street hustler, and a famous rapper, all of whom try to help her. As Bob and the Rat search the New York boroughs for their uncle (who's rumored to be the city's biggest drug dealer), they encounter many dangers, but the Rat always manages to extract them. When a corrupt children's home takes the Rat, it's up to Bob to unite her unusual group of friends and rescue her.

Is it any good?

Although this fast-paced story isn't meant to be realistic, the idea of two modern-day kids looking for someone and not first consulting the Internet is hard to swallow. Rat's endless wacky capers and her way of assessing people as either angels or pedophiles will charm some readers, but others will find her almost magical ability to slip in and out of crazy situations too unbelievable and ultimately tiresome. Big brother Bob's readiness to believe her premonitions and follow her into situations he doesn't understand is often baffling. Still, the story's varied action and its cast of unusual characters will appeal to many readers.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why the author chose not to have Bob and the Rat use the public library and the Internet to find their uncle. Does this lack of realism hurt the story or make it better because it allows them to have more adventures?

  • Can you relate to the rapper Iceman's complaints about the burdens of fame? Do you think they're realistic? Would you want to be famous? What would be good and bad about it?

  • Have you ever done what a friend or relative suggested, even though it didn't make sense to you, as Bob often does? How did the situation turn out for you?

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