Hilton, Marilyn. Full Cicada Moon
September 8th 2015 by Dial Books
Copy received from the publisher.
Mimi and her mother move from Berkeley, California to Vermont in 1969 to be with Mimi's father, who is a professor and also African American. Mimi misses her mother's relatives, who are Japanese, and struggles with the very different cultural atmosphere in Vermont. She does manage to find a friend in Stacey, a recent transplant from Georgia, as well as Tim, the nephew of their next door neighbor, Mr. Dell, who doesn't talk to the family at all. Mimi also struggles with wanting to be an astronaut at a time when girls were not allowed to take shop class, be overly interested in math and science, or wear slacks to school. Mimi's mother also struggles with finding her place, and when Mimi's father is offered a position in Texas, the family has to decide where they would rather be.
Strengths: We definitely need more middle grade fiction set in the 1960s, and this brilliantly addresses the issue of how differently racially diverse people were treated in different parts of the US. The use of the Apollo mission to show Mimi's interest in science is also inspired. There were a lot of nice moments, such as when we find out why the older neighbor has been standoffish. Very good choice for We Need Diverse Books.
Weaknesses: Wish there had been more details about every day life at the time, as there were in Cold War on Maple Street. There were some details that could have used more explanation-- my students do not believe me when I tell them that I was not allowed to wear blue jeans to school until 1976; some readers won't understand why girls couldn't wear slacks or why it was such a big deal that Mimi wanted to take shop. Sad, but true!
What I really think: Desperately wish this were not a novel in verse. It looks like a hugely long book, so many of my readers will not stop to see that it's not that long; I'll have to open the book to show them. Also, the poetic form leaves out a lot of details about what life was like in the 1960s, about the treatment of people from different cultures at this time, and about the role of women. Instead, we have a lot of lyrical language that neither aids understanding of the time or advances the story.