Beverley Brenna, Author
Red Deer Press, Fiction, 2007
Suitable for Ages: 9 and up
Themes: Fetal Alcoholism Spectrum Disorder (FASD), Foreign Adoption, Friendship, Abilities
Synopsis: Eleven-year-old Billy Ray is unhappy because his father has left home and the things they planned to do together aren’t going to happen. His mother is pregnant, and works a lot. A watchful older neighbor is a great cook, invites Billy to visit daily and treats him to a good meal. School is hard for Billy because he has Fetal Alcoholism Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and he has many challenges. He can’t sit still without falling out of a chair. He is unable to focus on schoolwork. Words get jumbled in his mind and he can’t read. Billy is a target for bullies. He wonders what’s wrong with him. If only he can enter the talent show at the local park and impress his father with the 21 tricks he’s mastered with his Typhoon yo-yo. Will his father show?
Billy needs a friend and discovers that one of his classmates, an adopted Romanian girl, lives across the street from him. Natasha never talks and Billy occasionally gets her to smile. An unlikely friendship develops between the Billy and Natasha and they share secrets. Billy discovers Natasha is keeping a moon journal. Every day she draws a picture of the phase of the moon and writes. He feels her sadness and knows there is a hidden story she’s trying to tell. His friendship with Natasha show’s Billy’s many abilities — he’s compassionate, caring, and helps Natasha when no one else can. Even though he has his heart set on winning that talent contest, Billy discovers what is most important in his life.
Why I like this book: Beverley Brenna has chosen complex topics and presented them in a very positive manner, focusing on abilities over challenges. Brenna writes believable characters that stay with you long after you put the book down. You don’t realize that Billy has FASD right away, but you experience the roller coaster he rides daily. FASD is revealed when he overhears his parents talking about “the new baby won’t be like Billy.” This comment upsets and confuses Billy until he talks with his mother and learns about her drinking problem during her pregnancy with him. Brenna carefully handles this topic with concern for Billy and his mother. Brenna also tackles the subject of Romanian adoptions and the difficult adjustments for the children in their new homes in Canada and America. This is an excellent book for kids with FASD to read so they can better understand themselves through Billy. It’s also a good book for the classroom.
Resources: Beverley Brenna has a teacher’s guide for The Moon Children. Visit her website to view all the books she’s authored. And, click here for information on the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS). The website provides a wealth of information for those interested.