Monday, February 08, 2021

MMGM- A Place to Hang the Moon, A Small Kindness

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 

Albus, Kate. A Place to Hang the Moon
February 2nd 2021 by Margaret Ferguson Books
E ARC Provided by Netgalley

Anna, Edmund, and William live in London at the start of WWII. Their parents have been dead for several years, and their grandmother has just passed away. They wish they could stay with Mrs. Collins, the housekeeper, but she is elderly and is going to live with her sister. Their solicitor arranges for them to be evacuated with a nearby school, and instructs them to tell no one that their grandmother is dead, and to try to locate a family who can adopt them, and therefore get access to their inheritance for their upkeep. The children, with their gas masks and one suit case each, board a train and are soon in the countryside. Because Anna is just 9, a woman with twin sons who are William's age offers to take in all of the children. The boys must put up with abuse from the twins, but the father is the local butcher, and the house is comfortable. The evacuees are sent to school every morning, in order to get them out of their foster family's hair, and are given lunch, although their ration books are turned over to the families. The children notice that there is a lending library, and are thrilled to be allowed to go. Each one has brought only one book from home, but soon they are investigating new stories and talking to Mrs. Müller, the librarian. Because her husband was from Germany, the townspeople are wary of her, and she is not allowed to take in evacuees. Unfortunately, she has not heard from her husband in three years, and fears for his safety. When the twins frame Edmund for graffiti in town, the children are moved to Mrs. Griffith's house. The young mother has three small children, and her husband is off fighting, so she has very little income. The children are given scant supplies, and winter becomes an exercise in survival. The children get lice (which Mrs. Müller helps them with), are constantly hungry, and are not cared for or loved at all. When the younger Griffiths tear up the children's personal books as well as their library ones to use as toilet paper, they flee the house. There is a Christmas pageant going on, and when Mrs. Müller realizes their plight, she takes them to her home after it is over. Edmund has a bad cold, but Mrs. Müller makes sure the children are warm, fed, and most importantly, books! She confronts the teachers in charge of the evacuees (one, Mrs. Warren, is very nice but leaves when her husband is killed, and Miss Carr is rather evil), and gets the three placed with her. The children revel in having care and, for the first time, love. Is this the family for which the children have been waiting? 
Strengths: If, like Anna, you grew up on a steady stream of orphan tales like A Little Princess and Anne of Green Gables, you will love this tale of evacuees in England during World War II. The writing moves the book ahead quickly; it wasn't until I finished that I realized it had started with a funeral. I usually hate this, but since Edmund was focused on filling his pockets with custard creams and iced buns, Anna was hiding beside a chair and reading, and William was trying to represent the children as the oldest and chafing at having to smile sadly, this was a great start. I don't have all that many books about evacuees in England, so this is a great topic to include, and it was also... ultimately cozy and very library friendly. Librarians and teachers will absolutely adore this, but it will also resonate with younger readers. Very much enjoyed this. It had a wonderful, classic feel to it. 
Weaknesses: This needed a dog. Why did Mrs. Müller not have a Cavalier King Charles spaniel to sit with her in the snug in front of the fire?
What I really think: I'd love to know if Mrs. Müller was a homage to Bunting's 1995 Spying on Miss Muller! Bradley's The War That Saved My Life is popular in my library because an elementary teacher reads it to her class, so I am definitely buying a copy. This gave me the same range of feels that Edward's Mandy did-- first, the weird thrill of survival against the odds, then the relief of comfort when the children once again have warm socks and cocoa. I loved that Mrs. Müller benefited as much from having the children with her. 

Hopkinson, Deborah. We Must Not Forget: Holocaust Stories of Survival and Resistance 
February 2nd 2021 by Scholastic Focus
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Hopkinson knows her way around a nonfiction book, and her familiarity and depth of research on various topics surrounding WWII are clearly evident in this latest title. (See her Courage & Defiance: Stories of Spies, Saboteurs, and Survivors in World War II Denmark (2015), We Had to Be Brave: Escaping the Nazis on the Kindertransport (2020), How I Became a Spy: A Mystery of WWII London (2019) and even Knit Your Bit (2013).) We Must Not Forget is an excellent combination of background information about World War II, the Nazis' rise to power, and the plight of the Jewish population and individual stories of people involved. There are three sections to the book; stories from Germany and the Netherlands that discuss "Fleeing From Evil, Hiding From Horror", stories from France about "Families Torn Apart", and Polish stories of "Desperation and Defiance". This gives a great overview of the different ways people were affected and how they survived. The are a good number of pictures, and the best part about this was the scaffolding of information within the stories. Everything is well described, which is great, since many readers don't have the background necessary to fully understand the stories. World War II is now a long time in the past, so long that many of my students are not really sure of the years during which it was fought. This is an excellent addition to the first person narratives about WWII. 

McAnulty, Stacy and Leach, Wendy. A Small Kindness
February 2nd 2021 by Running Press Kids
ARC provided by the publisher

When Ms. Jones' class lines up at the start of their day, many of the students look sad and apprehensive, and the picture is rendered in sepia tones. When Alice smiles at Lucas, both gain some color. As the day progresses, the chain of kindness continues with small acts like opening the door, saying hello, and offering seats, notes and complements. At the end of the day, everyone is happier. 

While this is a simple message, it is an important one, and the adding colors is a clever and effective way to show the kindness being passed along. The text also compares it to a game of tag, which young readers will be able to understand. I can see this book being a great one to read to classes at the beginning of the school year to set the tone for class expectations of kindness. 

A learning packet is available at


  1. I've had my eye on A Place to Hang the Moon and will try to reserve it at the library after reading your review. And congrats on 15 years of blogging!

  2. Thanks for sharing these books today. I've added A Place to Hang the Moon and Kindness to my list.

  3. I have both A Place to Hang the Moon and We Must Not Forget on my TBR list and I'm happy to learn a bit more about both. However, A Small Kindness is new to me. I have thoroughly enjoyed everything McAnulty has written whether it's a picture book or older MGlit, so I'll be looking for this one, too. Thanks for sharing, Karen, and I hope you have a wonderful reading week!

  4. I have a whole stack of WWII books that I need to get through. I have Hopkinson's (and her nonfiction book from last year We Had to Be Brave)book to read. I have been trying to find a copy of A Place to Hang the Moon, but haven't had any luck. Maybe by the time I finish the other WWII books....

  5. A Place to Hang the Moon sounds beautiful. I love books with a classic, old-fashioned feel and this sounds like it has a good message.
    It'd be interesting to read along with We Must Not Forget.
    And a Small Kindness sounds delightful. Thanks for sharing these!

  6. I've heard a lot of praise for A Place to Hang the Moon, and it sounds excellent (and definitely good for fans of The War That Saved My Life)! We Must Not Forget sounds excellent as well, and A Small Kindness sounds like an incredibly sweet story! Thanks for the great reviews, as always!

  7. These all sound wonderful. I have put A Place to Hang the Moon on my TBR list. It sounds like a must-read to me. I haven't read a lot of stories about children during the war in England, so this is particularly attractive to me. Thanks for the post.

  8. A Place to Hang the Moon sounds great. It is going on my list. Thanks for sharing.