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Maggot Moon (Michael L. Printz Award - Honor Title(s)) Hardcover – February 12, 2013
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From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up-In a grimly surreal alternate 1950s, 15-year-old Standish Treadwell leads a bleak life under a totalitarian government reminiscent of World War II Germany and Cold War Soviet Union. Struggling with an unspecified learning disability, he doesn't fit in-he dreams of a land of Croca-Colas and plans an imaginary mission to planet Juniper with his best friend, Hector-until Hector and his family are abruptly taken away because they know too much about the government's machinations. Standish's quirky first-person voice and fragmented storytelling gradually reveal that the government is intent on winning a propaganda-filled space race and will go to any length, including a massive hoax, to appear victorious. The story borders on allegory, and the setting is deliberately vague. It is implied that the details that led to this dystopian society are not important; the crucial point is that Standish becomes determined that he, an individual, can take action against a cruel and powerful regime. With brief chapters and short sentences, the prose appears deceptively simple, but the challenging subject matter makes for a highly cerebral reading experience. Stomach-churning illustrations of flies, rats, and maggots accompany the text, creating a parallel graphical narrative that emphasizes key moments in the plot. Though its harsh setting and brutal violence may not appeal to those seeking a happy ending, the story's Orwellian overtones will fuel much speculation and discussion among readers.-Allison Tran, Mission Viejo Library, CAα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
*Starred Review* The year is 1956. In an unnamed country of obvious allegorical weight, the totalitarian government of “the Motherland” keeps the “impure” in ghettos where they live off scraps and hope not to be dragged away to camps. Standish, 15, lives in Zone 7, a nasty place from which school is no respite—there cruel teachers beat students and, on this particular day, kill one. Standish is expelled in the aftermath, and the next step for him may be the camps. Standish, however, knows a secret. The Motherland is hyping a moon landing that will prove to the world that they reign supreme with interstellar weaponry. But it’s a fake: just across the park, accessible via a hidden tunnel, is a building that houses an artificial moon set. And one of the so-called astronauts has shown up in Standish’s cellar missing his tongue. Gardner snatches elements from across history to create something uniquely her own: a bleak, violent landscape of oppression, as well as the seeds of hope that sprout there, revealed in Standish’s tenacious, idiosyncratic voice over 100 short chapters. Crouch’s frequent sketches of flies, rats, and maggots seem unrelated at first, but they emerge as further metaphor for the taking. This is alt-history second; first, it is an eerie, commanding drama. Grades 7-12. --Daniel Kraus
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Top Customer Reviews
Sometimes a story has more layers than an onion, with more and more meaning to peel away and peel away. Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner is just such a story. But you might not like what you find under each layer.
Standish Treadwell isn't bright. At least, it is safer for Standish if you think that. In the alternative Britain he lives in, there isn't much of anything that could be considered "bright". No color, no fun, no happiness. But for a boy who can't read and write, this cruel world is particularly cruel. That is, until Hector comes along. As the only boy Standish has every called a friend, Hector is the most important person in his life besides Standish's grandfather.
The world doesn't take kindly to friends. With the Greenflies buzzing around and teachers who are willing to beat a little boy to death for laughing, the world is a cold hard place. But when Hector disappears, Standish refuses to stand by and let it happen. He watched his own parents disappear after his mother was taken and returned disfigured, and he isn't going to let the same thing happen to Hector. Standish is the only one who can help. He is the only one who can help because he is the one who is underestimated the most.
Have you read Animal Farm? If you have, you know there are two (or more) layers to that story. You have the weird story about the talking animals taking over the farm, and then you have the deeper allegory into the world's political figures. Maggot Moon is the same kind of story. Honestly? This is NOT a book for young kids or even most young adults. It is deep, complex, violent, bizarre, confusing, and I am not even sure I really liked it, but it had my mind spinning all day. The author is severely dyslexic and she speaks of her learning disability quite candidly. Not only did she make a world with a dyslexic hero, but she also created this dyslexic world inside a dystopia. If you let yourself run with the way the book is written, it feels different, confusing at times. I love the statement this makes about the dyslexic mind... layers and layers of meaning hidden behind simplistic language and a confusing story.
That being said, I actually didn't enjoy this book in the way I enjoy other stories. It was difficult and painful at times, but you shouldn't let that to scare you away. It is the kind of book that will make your head spin if you let it, but you can't fight the odd story and characters. Like Animal Farm there is something deeper here that you have to find yourself. What does this story mean to you? Are you a Standish Treadwell? Is your brother or sister? Student?
The dystopia angle of this story is very odd and won't appeal to many kids who likes the popular dystopias out there (Hunger Games, Maze Runner, etc.). It really shouldn't be classified as a dystopia, and in fact, I think this book defies most categories. But it's strange and interesting, and I still can't stop thinking about it!
I don't know what I was expecting with this novel, but it wasn't this. This was very interesting. It was a completely unique tale about a young boy in a cruel world. This story will shock you and warm your heart.
Standish puts himself down a lot. He has dyslexia, and everyone tells him that means he's not very bright. I don't think this is the case at all. Standish is kind and thoughtful. Just because his reading and writing isn't the best, doesn't mean he can't form intelligent thoughts. It's a shame that most of his teachers only perpetuate the idea that he isn't bright instead of trying to help him in any way. This country, the Motherland, seems like a terrible place to be. It seems a bit like Nazi Germany and we all know how fun that was.
The violence in this novel is enough to make you sick. There's the school yard bullying which is bad enough, but then there's the teacher bullying (not to mention the government bullying). Standish's current teacher is the worst. He is a despicable person with no sense of decency, with his sick thoughts based only on self-preservation. It's disgusting that someone as awful as he be granted a position of power over these poor children.
The story wasn't all terrible things happening though. There were many shining moments where your heart can start to warm. It was a very curious story too. I was never quite sure where it was going until we got there. Standish was creative narrator, so the story flowed a bit differently with him telling it then it would if someone else were to.
If you're looking for a novel that's a bit off the beaten track, that pushes your comfort zone; check out Maggot Moon. It was fascinating and totally worth the read.
"I'm wondering what if."
"Even if I could, I couldn't"
"I still have that scream in me."
Read it. You won't regret it.
I also wanted to mention the age appropriateness of this book. As the UK version actually does have a warning on the back for violence and language, but the US one does not, I think it's important to know that this book is probably not meant for 12 and under's.
Student Reviewer: rmaehill
Age at time of review - 16