Review Blog

Mar 29 2019

How high the moon by Karyn Parsons

cover image

Puffin Books, 2019. ISBN: 9780241346891.
(Age: Secondary students and mature Year 7) Recommended. The book's front cover immediately leaves the reader with no illusions about the serious event that is to occur in the story. A torn newspaper graphic announces that the novel was 'inspired by the tragic true tale of George Stinney, the youngest ever American to be executed at the age of fourteen . . . '
The newspaper is 'The South Carolina Times' and the date is 1944, which gives background information about the setting and time. This historical perspective may not be obvious to the young adult reader but Karyn Parsons's story reveals the racism of Southern America through the eyes of young black Americans.
Ella is the main character and it is her journey of self-discovery that directs most of the plot. Ella lives in a loving extended family with her grandparents and cousins. Her mother has moved to the North to pursue a better life and Ella has no knowledge of her father.
Surprisingly her mother sends for Ella to join her in Boston and at first this seems exciting, but her mama's day job and busy night life as an aspiring jazz singer means Ella is often alone. She yearns for school and her past family life and her main focus is trying to discover information about her dad.
This story is told from the perspective of several characters and is an insight into the strong racial feelings of the times. Ella is amazed by the differences between attitudes in the more liberal North and racist Southern USA, especially the fragile, tenuous existence of black people in her home state of South Carolina.
The title of the novel is an Ella Fitzgerald song and a link to the jazz music of the time.
This is a wonderful story that deals with powerful issues. I would recommend this story to secondary students and mature year 7's.
Here is a video of the author talking about her novel.
Jane Moore

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