The premise: Thirteen-year-old Socko Starr lives in a run-down apartment in a troubled city neighborhood. He has a through-thick-and-thin best friend, but there's a gang leader who's got it in for the two of them. Through an interesting twist, Socko's great-grandfather buys a house for his mom, and she and Socko move to a (so-called) safer, brand-new, suburban housing development. But for Socko, it's like living on the moon.
What keeps readers reading: The action! Something is always happening in this story, and the stakes are high--but not at the expense of characterization, and I love that about this book. In an awesome way, Adrian Fogelin has melded the story's action with character development, and the reader leaves the story with an understanding of and a connection to each character.
There is so much more I could say about this book, but I had the chance to interview Adrian (!!!!), so I'll let her words tell you more about Summer on the Moon. (My questions are in blue).
When I read a book, I love knowing the story behind the story because it makes the story mean that much more to the reader. With that in mind, what inspired Summer on the Moon?
The story began on a school visit. Trying to demonstrate that a story’s setting usually originates in a place the author knows, I asked for descriptions of places that the students knew well. I usually get a town, or a house, sometimes Disney. That day I heard about a cardboard box, the kind an appliance comes in. The kid said that he climbed into that box when he needed to be alone. It made me think about how important having a place of your own can be.
In "Summer on the Moon" I begin with a couple of kids in a dangerous inner-city neighborhood. They have no place to call their own, except the roof of their apartment building, which hasn't yet come to the attention of the local gang—but quickly does.
When the main character, Socko, moves to a partially built housing development, the roof is replaced by acres and acres of empty and incomplete houses. He quickly turns the subdivision’s empty swimming pool into his own personal skate park and considers all of the subdivision his “territory.” I know Socko’s territory well because I grew up in such a place. Although grassless and treeless it was a place a kid could roam without fear—and it was much bigger than a cardboard box.
As I wrote the book the current recession was always on my mind and every character you meet is in some way affected by these hard times. It seemed important to put the the courage, and the coping skills, especially those shown by kids, in a book.
My daughter (age 12) would like to know why you decided to write books for kids.
I started out by writing books for grown-ups. My mother was a writer, and that was the kind of book she wrote. A conversation with the girl next door changed everything. She told me that her family was going to have to move soon because they're getting to be too many black people in the neighborhood, and I realized that prejudice is a lesson many kids learn at home. So I wrote a story, "Crossing Jordan" about a 12-year-old girl who is getting that message but chooses to become best friends with the black girl next door anyway. I realized that stories could entertain adults but that they could maybe do more than that if I wrote for young readers.
My son (who just turned 14) is at a crossroads in his reading life. Some middle grade is too young for him and a lot of YA doesn't fit his interests. What might boy readers like my son find most intriguing about Summer on the Moon?
Unlike many of my books, this one has lots of action. Plus a gang. Plus a car plunging into a swimming pool requiring the emergency rescue of the gang leader. I also think, and hope, that I really got inside the head of the book's male narrator, Socko Starr.
The skateboarding dude on the cover might help too. I sure hope so.
Thank you so much, Adrian! And the skateboarding dude on the cover is AWESOME--as is the title font in my (albeit girl) opinion! And just so you all know, my son read Summer on the Moon already, LOVED the action and movement in the story, and also appreciated how the teenagers talk like teenagers!
To enter the giveaway for Summer on the Moon, simply comment on this post by Sunday, April 8th, by 8 pm CDT. International entries welcome. The winner will be announced on Monday, April 9th. Visit other blogs on the tour (and more chances to win the book!) by clicking here: Peachtree Publishers blog.
Happy middle grade reading!