A Place to Hang the Moon – Kate Albus. Margaret Ferguson Books, 2021. 9780823447053
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4
Genre: historical fiction
What did you like about the book? William (12), Edmund (11), and Anna (9) Pearce have not known a lot of love or kindness in their young lives, other than from each other. Raised by their stern, wealthy grandmother since being orphaned years before, the trio now faces an uncertain future following her passing. It is 1940, in London, so their solicitor arranges for them to be evacuated to the countryside along with many other local children, and sets them to the task of finding a family willing to take them in permanently (without telling the family about their circumstances, or their considerable wealth). Their first billet, with a butcher’s family, provides warmth and food, and a mother who dotes on little Anna, but the butcher’s sons bully the two boys and push Edmund to retaliate, leading them to be removed from this home and placed in an even worse one. Mrs. Griffiths has four small children, and her husband is off somewhere fighting; she is really struggling to survive and does not welcome the addition of three more children other than as a resource for rations and help with household tasks.
All the while, the children attend school and find comfort visiting the library, a cozy warm space filled with favorite books and run by a kindly librarian. Mrs. Müller is struggling to be accepted in town; due to her German husband (who has disappeared) many people assume she is a Nazi sympathizer. The children are not fazed by this suspicion, in fact, their attachment to the librarian grows deeper as their discomfort in their new billet worsens. When the children have to escape from Mrs. Griffiths, on Christmas Eve no less, they seek refuge at Mrs. Müller’s house, bringing forth the much-anticipated, if thoroughly predictable, conclusion.
The affectionate bond among the Pearce siblings is the most appealing aspect of this sweet story. William has been caring for his brother and sister for so long, and as the only one with any memories of their parents, feels obligated to share details with them, such as their mother’s frequent comment that her children “hung the moon.” Edmund is a troublemaker with a huge heart, and will bravely blurt out the truth when William is trying to be more diplomatic. Anna is a book-loving, quiet little girl who adores her big brothers but clearly craves a mother’s love. They make a great team as they face so many challenges, and readers will be so relieved when their burden is lifted off their shoulders. Many references to the classic books the Pearces enjoy (old favorites and new ones introduced by Mrs. Müller) are supported by “William, Edmund, and Anna’s Recommended Reading List” at the end of the book.
Anything you did not like about the book? No – some might feel that they knew where the children would wind up from the moment they met the librarian, but I felt like that was a comfort as I read about their difficult times in the other homes.
To whom would you recommend this book? There are obvious connections between this and Bradley’s The War That Saved My Life and The War I Finally Won. It’s easier to read and a lot less heartbreaking than those books, but it is easy to get attached to the Pearces and root for their happy ending. Upper elementary readers who prefer historical fiction that focuses more on family and relationships and the effects of the historical events, rather than action and adventure, will really love it.
Who should buy this book? Public and elementary school libraries
Where would you shelve it? fiction
Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No, but it’s always nice to read strong librarian characters!
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Leigh Russell King, Lincoln Street School, Northborough, Massachusetts.
Date of review: 7/19/2021