Review Blog

Mar 17 2011

Unhooking the moon by Gregory Hughes

cover image

Quercus, 2010. ISBN 9781849162951.
(Age 12+) Highly recommended. When the Rat, a precocious ten-year-old girl, predicts the death of her father, Bob is sceptical but the Rat's predictions have come true in the past. When they find their father dead, they decide to travel from Winnipeg to New York in search of their uncle, who is rumoured to be a drug dealer. Setting out on their bikes, they encounter many adventures on their road trip including meeting up with a smuggler, a con man and a famous rap star. How can they find their uncle amongst so many people and survive on the streets of New York?
Hughes has created two of the most memorable characters that I have read in books recently. The Rat is an amazing girl, who, although suffering from seizures, is remarkably wise and brave. She can speak several languages and mimic anyone she meets. Her charisma is extraordinary and her leadership skills are remarkable. Her hatred of paedophiles is a theme throughout the book. Her older brother Bob finds himself in the role of follower and protector, always worrying about the Rat's fragility. Good looking and kind hearted, he moves along in the wake of the Rat's wishes and their sibling love is a highlight of the book.
Hughes' writing of dialogue is superb. The Rat uses the word 'beep' instead of a swear word and this provides much of the humour in the book. Other characters come alive through their conversation as well.
Unhooking the moon is not just an engrossing road trip; it is original and heart rending. It covers themes of mental illness, death, the effect of fame and homelessness in a seamless story that had me laughing and crying.
Nothing prepared me for the magic and gritty realism in the book although the fact that it has been awarded the Booktrust Teenage Prize, 2010 and shortlisted for the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize 2010, should have warned me that it would be an outstanding story. It deserves to be promoted vigorously by teachers and librarians to individuals, for class sets and literature circles. I believe that it will make its mark as a modern children's classic.
Pat Pledger

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