Maggot Moon

maggotmoonWritten by Sally Gardner, Illustrated by Julian Crouch

This is the strange and harrowing tale of a teenage boy living in the bombed out backwaters of a totalitarian nation called the Motherland. This is a place where it is best to just stay invisible and follow along, but the boy Standish has a strange name, strange eyes (one brown and one blue), dyslexia, and a powerful imagination. It is best to stay invisible because this is also a place where people close to you simply disappear without warning, teachers delight in acts of violence against students, curfew is at 4 PM, you are constantly under observation by detectives and officers, and there is a high barricade to keep citizens out of the city park. But Standish and his friend Hector have found a tunnel under the wall to the park, and there they discover a secret that if revealed could destroy both their own lives and the false glory of the Motherland, currently in a patriotic fervor over a pending moon landing.

This was a very unique novel, and a fast and brief read. Gardner has created an imaginary but compelling setting and situation evocative of historical realities such as occupied Nazi Germany and other totalitarian regimes. In using this imaginary location to share her very realistic tale of horror, tenacity, and bravery, she did not need to be tied down to actual historic or geographic details, which makes the story feel more universal and allegorical. The story, told in Standish’s words, unfolded in an economic but non-chronological, stream-of-consciousness style, with digressions and repetitions that were occasionally frustrating to this reader but were nonetheless true to the psychological trauma of the character’s situation. Highly recommended for those who can’t resist a tragic tale along the lines of The Book Thief, and also recommended for those who like dystopian or apocalyptic literature.

Award note: This book recently won the prestigious Carnegie Medal, a British award roughly equivalent to the American Newbery and Printz Medals.

Language note: This book contains strong PG-13-worthy language.

Review by Joshua Whiting, Granite District Librarian
Rating: ★★★★✩ (4 stars)
Interest Level: Grades 8+

Author Website:

Maggot Moon
Written by Sally Gardner, Illustrated by Julian Crouch
Candlewick Press
279 pages
Release Date: February 12, 2013
ISBN: 9780763665531 (hardcover)

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