Historical fiction is a fascinating genre to read, especially as authors expertly connect real events and behaviors with characters who emerge from their imaginations. World War II is especially ripe for this kind of narrative, which is where A Place to Hang the Moon fits in. I enjoyed this book’s delivery very much, as the narrator becomes something of its own character detailing the actions and beliefs of the characters in the story. This narrative mirrors some of the same feelings found in The War That Saved My Life, and I found myself considering what I might do if found in a similar situation myself. A Place to Hang the Moon is memorable and heartwarming, and it is an important story for middle grade readers. Please see my full review below!
In times of war, sacrifices must be made by soldiers and civilians alike for the good of society as a whole, but sometimes, silver linings can be found among the clouds. Anna, Edmund, and William Pearce grew up in London under the less than desirable care of their grandmother after the untimely deaths of their parents. When their grandmother passes away in the summer of 1940, the children are standing at a precipice of an unknown future. War is growing ever closer to their doorsteps, and in a joint effort to find the orphaned children a suitable home and keep them safe, the siblings must embark on an unpredictable journey to discover the family they have always needed.
This beautifully written story plunges readers into the challenges of wartime England as World War II is heating up. Thousands of children were evacuated from London to homes in the countryside in an effort to keep them from the bombings and conflict, and it is only thanks to the kind hearts of other families that these children had a chance at survival. While Anna, Edmund, and William do not have the most pleasant experiences with the families they join, the three manage to grow an even deeper bond as they develop wisdom and maturity beyond their years.
Told from the perspective of an omniscient narrator, there is no primary character in the story; instead, the narrator itself becomes the background of the narrative, giving readers deeper insight into the characters’ actions and emotions. Occasionally, the reader is addressed directly in an effort to explain some of the more obscure references by today’s standards that were commonplace in Anna, Edmund, and William’s realities. Humor and love wind themselves into the bleak nature of early 1940s England, and readers will appreciate the variety of emotions displayed throughout this story.
Though fictionalized, A Place to Hang the Moon combines real experiences and behaviors of the early 1940s in England with characters who feel both present and familiar. Much like the storybooks Anna, Edmund, and William love so much, this book is especially well-suited to be read aloud. Whether learning something new about historical events or feeling the sentiments that come from losing and gaining family, readers of all ages will connect with Anna, Edmund, and William and their willingness to persevere through myriad struggles. This is an excellent addition to historical fiction collections about World War II for middle grade readers.
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