This book is smart and funny and full of heart.
In the story, the lives of four preteens come together at Moon Shadow Campground, where hundreds of people are converging in the summer for a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see a total eclipse of the sun in mainland America. Ally Summers, almost 13, along with her younger brother Kenny and her parents, live on the campground and manage it. But as the book begins, the kids find out that their parents will be transferring ownership after the eclipse to the Holdens, about to arrive with their 13-year-old daughter Bree and an 11-year-old sister Melanie.
Two similarly-aged boys will also be at the camp. Jack Rosten, somewhat overweight and a loner, is asked by the science teacher who flunked him to help on the eclipse tour instead of attending summer school. Jack jumps at the chance to avoid summer school, even though he is not much interested in the stars, because they make him feel even more insignificant that he already feels. Ryan Flynn, a year older than Ally and a longtime family friend who comes every summer, now has suddenly matured in ways Ally doesn’t understand. (Ryan, while central to the story, is not one of the narrators; the chapters alternate among Ally, Bree, and Jack.)
All of these kids have problems. Ally, an astronomy lover, doesn’t want to leave the clear skies and natural beauty of Moon Shadow. Bree, a fashionista and aspiring model, doesn’t want to leave city life, with its malls, its emphasis on appearances, and her friends. Ryan is trying to figure out who he should be, sort of like a personification of a cracking male voice. And Jack doesn’t want to be anyone – just invisible.
As you might expect, all of them end up helping each other, and becoming great friends to boot. It’s a wonderful book, and has some very funny parts. Best of all, each of the kids is lovable, and each finds out that being true to yourself is more important than, say, having a good hair day.
Discussion: The author does an excellent job of creating tweenaged characters with all their uncertainties and hopes and that mixture of child and adult common to this age group. She also shows that while kids may be powerless to affect the decisions made by adults, there is plenty they can do to make the best of the changes in their lives.
In addition, the author is obviously a great fan of astronomy, and she conveys her enthusiasm for the stars through the book’s characters. She also includes a section in the back with notes and suggestions for further reading.
Evaluation: This heart-warming story combines endearing characters with good messages, science facts, drama, and excitement into a book that ends in a way bound to please everyone. Highly recommended!
Published by Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc., 2008