Review of Moonwalking

by Zetta Elliott and Lyn Miller-Lachmann
Middle School    Farrar    224 pp.    g
4/22    978-0-374-31437-8    $16.99
e-book ed.  978-0-374-31438-5    $9.99

Through alternating first-person accounts, and with varied poetic styles, Elliott (A Place Inside of Me, rev. 11/20) and Miller-Lachmann (Rogue, rev. 9/13) present a thoughtfully structured and sensitively rendered verse novel set in early-1980s Brooklyn featuring two memorable protagonists. Seventh grader Pierre “Pie” Velez is an Afro-Latino with a brilliant mind and an artistic talent, both of which shine in the art room and in his graffiti tags (his narration ranges from concrete poetry to tricubes). Most of Pie’s time is devoted to taking care of his younger sister and their mother, who experiences “nervous attacks.” New classmate Joseph John “JJ” Pankowski (who narrates in more straightforward free verse) and his family have arrived in Brooklyn under the cover of night, after his father is blacklisted for union activity. Having been labeled with multiple learning disabilities, JJ is surprised to find himself in honors class at his new public school, until he realizes how disproportionately white students like him are chosen as honor students. Pie and JJ make a halting attempt at friendship, and Pie’s explanations of lessons help JJ follow along in school. Outside racial tensions soon overshadow the relationship, and Pie and JJ are left to wonder whether it can survive. Both authors are adept at evocatively re-creating the setting, with references ranging from Ronald Reagan’s anti-union stance to Jean-Michel Basquiat, Michael Jackson, and the Clash. Authors’ notes give background on various aspects of the novel, including autism as a likely diagnosis for JJ, using today’s terms.

From the May/June 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Eboni Njoku
Eboni Njoku is a children’s librarian at the Anacostia Neighborhood Library Branch of the DC Public Library.

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