Customer Reviews: The Moorchild
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on December 23, 2000
This was one the best books I ever read. From the dedication: To all children who have felt different, to the very end it seemed as if this beautiful story had been written solely for my benefit. In it, Saaski begins life as a happy elf child, untill the other elves discover that she is half human, and thus cannot perform many of the essential elf magic spells. They then change her for a human child and put her in it's place. At first she is confused and angry, but gradually her memories begin to fade and she believes herself a human. All her young life she has to deal with the cruel prejudices of the simple village folk, as she also deals with confusion of her own strangeness. Untill that fatefull time when she is eleven years old.... Any way, this was an excellent book with some of the best writing and characterizations I have ever seen in a book, and I would reccamend it to anyone, but most especially, as the auther herself put it, To all children who have felt different.
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on May 29, 2006
I'm a little chagrined that the recommended age level for this book is 9-12. I'm middle-aged and thoroughly enjoyed it. Previous reviewers have give ample plot analysis - the only thing I will add is that it was well-written and had a satisfactory ending. (I hate reading books that end badly, no matter how enjoyable they were up to that point!) I read this book yesterday, and woke up today still thinking about it, which is always a sign to me of a good book. My only "criticism" is that, as a former teacher who loves to read out loud to children, I'm afraid I wouldn't be able to pronounce her fairy name!
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on February 8, 2002
My daughter and I listened to the Recorded Books version read by Virginia Leishman, one of the most beautiful readings of a children's book I have ever heard. The story is suited for older children and might be too upsetting for some children under the age of 9 or 10. There is a scene which will be upsetting to anybody--as well it should--but it should be "digestible" for most older children exposed to the evening news or history books, and the scene is sensitively resolved by the courage of the child's human father's quite heroic behavior.
The character of the child's human family members is one of the most comforting aspects of the book, as their courage and integrity is contrasted with the ignorance and fear of the villagers and the mob among both the fairies and the human villagers. The similar ignorance of both groups with regard to anyone "different" is also an illuminating and sensitively depicted facet of a truly excellent book.
The story is about a child half-fairy, half-human, and as one character in the book states, "neither here nor there"....she doesn't belong anywhere, and that is the story's dilemma. However, the story is so beautifully told that even for children who don't feel "different", it is hard to imagine a sensitive child of 10-14 who wouldn't enjoy hearing this story or reading it themselves.
The child in the story, Saaski, inspires hate in the medieval villagers who fear her difference as a threat to their well-being. She also inspires deep abiding love in her human "family" whose real baby has been stolen by the fairies to make a place for the half-fairy child they have rejected as "dangerous" as well.
The examination of the origins of feelings of hate and love via the tale is illuminating for both children and adults, and I enjoyed the book as much as my daughter. There are elements of the story which are reminiscent of the witch hunts in American history and legend, and common elements shared with stories which detail more recent racist hatemongering.
At the same time, the life of the "folk" or the fairies from the Celtic tradition is well-illustrated and explained. My daughter recently had a passage in one of her homework assignments that talked about the time difference between the fairy and the human worlds which was very much in tune with the interpretation of fairy or folklore as told by McGraw. This pleased my daughter a great deal and helped make the story feel more "authentic" for her.
I recommend this book highly for both classroom and personal reading as there is sufficient depth to generate active and relevant classroom discussions, as well as tremendous enjoyment for avid readers.
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on September 7, 2009
The Moorchild is definitely a charming little book. It is well-written with interesting characters and a language style that I really enjoyed, though I can see it being difficult for a younger reader. The mythology was fairly standard, but could have been developed and explored further, as could the culture. Also, after rereading The Moorchild after a few years, I was surprised to see how different the moral structure is than I remembered from when I was younger.

The dedication is to all the children who have ever felt different. Now, I was bullied quite badly as a child because of my personality and appearance, and my parents are from different countries, so I very much relate to Saaski, the story's main character, who is caught not only between two cultures but really between two worlds, and sympathized with the cruelty she underwent at the hands of the other village children. However, I highly disagree with how McGraw handles this situation as an author. "Different" is portrayed to equal "Wrong." Saaski is taunted, blamed, physically attacked, and even threatened to be killed throughout the story. I realize that being different can cause people to hate you, it's life and kids shouldn't be sheltered from it, but how it's dealt with bothers me. Saaski not only rarely stands up for herself, but is portrayed as unable to do so; she is constantly hiding and avoiding other children, and in the end runs away. Even her parents, who do their best to love her and treat her as a normal child, very clearly never fully accept her. Is this the message we want to send children who feel different? That no one -- not even their parents -- will ever love them or even accept them unless they, too are outcast? That these other outcasts are the only people they can trust? That the solution to bullying is running away? Likewise, do we want to portray bullies of "different" children as having no consequences, not even from their parents? And what about Bruman, who is alcoholic, beats Tam, and is still portrayed in a positive light? Other reviewers have noted the "happy ending" of the book, but that ending comes of Saaski essentially giving up on people and making things in the village as if she had never existed. Her tormentors get what they want, essentially being rewarded for their cruelty to the young child.

Be careful with this book, especially if you're going to give it to a child who is "different." Read it first, be aware and talk about how Saaski and the villagers handle situations and how they could have acted differently. It's worth a read because it's interesting, compelling and has a great language style, but don't take the dedication lightly.
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on March 13, 2000
I loved this book! After getting through the very beginning of the book, which is a little slow and confusing, the rest of the book is great. The plot picked up and became very exciting. The book is one big mystery and made me so curious I wanted to keep reading. The plot is full of supense. During the last part of the book I was on the edge of my seat. I love the characters because they are very different and unique. The author does a great job making fantasy seem real. After reading this book I wondered if faries and elves really exist. Read this book if you like fantasy!
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on July 28, 2003
This book is great. I can't list all the things I love about it. What impresses me most is how faithful the author is to her own story and setting--while this is a story about being different, it doesn't have some manufactured cutie-pie ending (as I had feared it would) in which the plucky little outsider convinces everyone to love her. Instead, McGraw allows the tale to be realistically bittersweet. I know this may not endear it to some kids (or even adults), but it's fantastic if you're in the mood for something with an ending that is believably--in this case, *relatively*--happy.
The author's attention to detail and ability to create the medieval moorland setting is astonishing.
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on November 25, 2013
Wow, what a fabulous book! We are a Pagan homeschooling family with a 9-year-old daughter, for whom this book opened all kinds of topics for further learning: beekeeping, animal husbandry, superstitions and magic, prejudice and curiosity, herbal medicine, and the role of the early Christian priests in Pagan Europe. And, of course, Fairies.

Eloise McGraw writes about Changelings from the point of view of one: half Fairy, half Human, where does she belong? She ends up gracefully gifting herself everywhere she goes. For those who feel "out of place," the story offers a beautiful vision of how we can be ourselves and be generous to others at the same time. For feminists, it is a lovely story of conforming to expectations in some ways, while holding on to our core truths in others. I could go on and on about various layers of meaning in this book; it is so rich! Read it for yourself!

One note: It's a great read-aloud for 9 year olds (who may be starting to feel out-of-place in some ways, themselves), but the dialect might make it hard for them to read to themselves.
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on July 13, 2007
The Moorchild is a sweet, mostly innocent book which I thoroughly enjoyed. It is the story of Moql/Saaski. Born of a human father and a Folk (fairy/elf/pixie) mother, Moql can't fit in among the Folk. She isn't quite magical enough and the leaders decide she is a danger to the tribe when she fails to disappear when a human sights her.
Only one thing to do about it. Moql must be changed, traded with unsuspecting humans for a full human child who can be a convenient servant while Moql is out of their hair, and so quick as a flash, Moql is transformed back into an infant, Saaski, and dumped into the cradle of an unsuspecting blacksmith's wife. Needless to say the poor thing doesn't quite fit in there either.
The most charming part of this book is the way Saaski's "parents" take her in and try their best to love and raise her despite the difficulties and the disapproval of those around them. They seek to protect her even at great risk to themselves and even upon learning that she isn't really their child but instead a subsitution.
Wouldn't that be the worst thing in the world? Finding out that your child isn't? How would you balance wanting to love the child you raised and wanting to get back the child you lost without knowing it? Somehow this book manages to encompass this tragedy in a way that makes you happy in the end.
The end? Well, the only way Saaski can return her "mother's" kindness is to return the baby that should have been hers, isn't it? And so she must do, even at the risk of all the fairies could put against her to bar her return.
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on November 17, 2006
After reading Eloise Jarvis McGraw's "Master Cornhill," I searched in vain for the same kind of magic in one of her other novels. Naturally, I looked for other examples of her historical fiction, such as "Mara, Daughter of the Nile," and "The Striped Ships," but though they were informative and somewhat entertaining, I didn't experience the totally wonderful feeling you have when a book is so vivid you feel almost as if you were watching the scenes unfold in front of your eyes. So what a surprise to find that it was in a fantasy, "The Moorchild," which is anything but historical fiction, that I finally found the magic at last.

The characters, though fantastical, leap right off the page and make you care deeply about them. Like the relationships in "Master Cornhill," beautiful relationships work their way in and around this jewel of a fairy tale without at all detracting from the involved and intriguing plot. The world created in this book is wholly imaginary, but the characters seem as real as the people next door. What a joy this book was. With books this vivid, who needs the movies?
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Books about fairies, Old Ones, ferishers, etc. are as common as the day is long. There seems to be an insatiable need on the part of children to read about the mythical creatures that live within and yet not within our midst. Changelings are some of the oldest of these creatures and have been used to excellent use in a wide variety of literature. As you may know, a changeling is an object or creature exchanged for an unchristened baby. The changeling may at first look just like the baby it has replaced, but over time definite differences will come out. Most stories about changelings concentrate on the effort to locate the exchanged child. In the case of Eloise McGraw's, "The Moorchild", the author has cleverly written a tale of what it means to be different from everyone around you.

Old Bess knows something has gone wrong with the baby Saaski. Where once the child was docile and contained, now it cries and screams continually day and night. Old Bess suspects, rightly, that her grandchild has been exchanged for a changeling, an idea her daughter and son-in-law won't even consider. For her own part, Saaski is livid. A fairy, yes, she has been ousted from her home and fellows for the crime of not being able to do simple fairy tricks. It turns out that she is half human, and belongs neither in the fairy world nor in the human. As the baby Saaski grows up, she forgets her former life in the mystical Mound and thinks of herself as fully human, if a little odd. Certainly the village distrusts her, a feeling that becomes far more malignant and violent as time goes on. On her own, Saaski only feels truly free when she can wander the Moors, piping a tune on her grandfather's bagpipes. As time goes by, however, Saaski must rediscover who she is and solve the mystery of the child she replaced.

On the surface, the tale is a straightforward look at how difference breeds unnecessary hatred. Delving a little deeper into the text, this is a story about biracial children and the prejudices they face in society. In her dedication McGraw writes, "To all children who have ever felt different", giving her readers the chance to identify with this strange but beautiful creature. I was amazed at how well the author researched the classic fairy stories too. Saaski is afraid of salt, iron, rowan wood, St. John's Wart flowers, and other items as well. The fairies steal mostly food items and are lacking in such human emotions as love and hate. As a changeling, Saaski is similar to the boy Troy in Michael Chabon's recent fairy tale, "Summerland". She bears little resemblance to dangerous or evil changelings found in tales like Maurice Sendak's, "Outside Over There", (the melting baby changeling is particularly frightening) or the creature in John Crowley's, "Little Big" that crawls to the fireplace and starts eating the hot coals there like popcorn. The book is careful to admit that in some cases, changelings are enchanted sticks of wood or inanimate objects. Saaski's case is special because she is a halfling of sorts with a fairy mother and a human pa.

There are a lot of great fairy stories out there that don't give a whoopty-doo about the laws governing the Fair Folk and their kin. In a way, it's a great relief to read an accomplished writer like Eloise McGraw and her "Moorchild" book. The plot is enchanting, the characters lively and well written, and the story a fabulous metaphor for those people that must create their own worlds when the one around them becomes too intolerant. A delightful addition to any public or private library.
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