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Review of Maggot Moon

Maggot Moon
by Sally Gardner; illus. by Julian Crouch
Middle School, High School    Candlewick    281 pp.
2/13    978-0-7636-6553-1    $16.99
e-book ed.  978-0-7636-6573-9    $16.99

Gardner (I, Coriander, rev. 8/05) here imagines an alternate, dystopic UK: a repressive 1950s regime that calls itself the Motherland, abhors “impurities,” is led by a man with a bad haircut, and consigns undesirables to the derelict housing of Zone Seven. That’s where fifteen-year-old Standish Treadwell and his Gramps survive, thanks to Gramps’s ingenuity at reusing and bartering. Out of this life of hard-won subsistence and oppressive schooling, Standish tells the story of his friendship with “supernova bright” Hector next door — Hector, who realizes that dyslexic Standish may not have a train-track mind, but has imagination “in bucketloads.” When Hector and his parents disappear, taken by the authorities, Standish sets out to rescue and avenge him, and uncovers a grotesque government hoax. Standish’s tale has the terse, energetic tension of poetry; his phrases and sentences roll out with irony, tenderness, horror, or love, but always vividly. “The place smelled of over-boiled cabbage, cigarettes, and corruption,” he notes of his school; or, “What he was doing there I hadn’t a snowflake of an idea.” Even the chronology of Standish’s story depends on a rearrangement of order, where present, past, and future stand side by side. Most appealing of all, however, is Standish Treadwell himself: tender, incisive, brave, and determined, he takes a stand and treads well. Frequent pencil illustrations that function almost as a flipbook underscore the story’s subtext of the unending cycle of violence and death.

From the March/April 2013 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Deirdre Baker About Deirdre Baker

Deirdre F. Baker, a reviewer for The Horn Book Magazine and the Toronto Star, teaches children’s literature at the University of Toronto. The author of Becca
at Sea (Groundwood), she is currently at work on a sequel—written in the
past tense.

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