Ten-year-old Moon Blake knows a lot. He knows where to find food in the forest, even in the middle of winter. He knows how to build a fire without a match, how to construct a simple shelter, how to shoot a deer from a hundred yards and how to make his own clothing from the hides. All these things Moon has learned from his father. Pap has also taught Moon to distrust the government just as he does. "We never asked for anything and nobody ever gave us anything," Pap says. "Because of that, we don't owe anything to anybody."
Squatting in a one-room cabin in the middle of the Alabama forests, Moon and Pap have almost no other human contact. When Pap breaks his leg, he refuses to let Moon bring a doctor. Instead, he gives Moon just one piece of advice before he dies from the infection that sets into the wound: head to Alaska, where he'll be able to find other people who live off the land just as Moon has learned to do.
Alaska's a long way from Alabama, though, and Moon soon finds himself on the run from the law. When he lands in a juvenile detention center, Moon discovers that with the loss of his freedom, he gains good food and the first friends he's ever known. When he gets a chance to escape and live off the land once again, will he finally choose a lonely life in the wilderness, or can he learn to trust—and live with—other people who care for him?
In most other wilderness survival novels, young people must travel to the natural world in order to grow up. In his debut novel, Watt Key turns this genre on its head. In spare, unsentimental prose, Key offers a convincing portrait of a young man who is practically a professional in the wilderness but still has a lot to learn when it comes to friendship. Although parts of Moon's story may seem over-the-top, its fast pacing, adventurous storyline and true-to-life details about the natural world combine to produce a strikingly new kind of adventure novel.
Norah Piehl is a freelance writer and editor in the Boston area. Copyright 2006 BookPage Reviews.
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2007 Spring
Orphaned ten-year-old Moon was raised to be dependent on no one--especially "the government"--for help. His plan to join other survivalists is waylaid when he's turned over to the state. First-time author Key thoroughly inhabits his protagonist; Moon's story is told in homespun prose, with his loneliness bleeding through his determination to make it alone. Copyright 2007 Horn Book Guide Reviews.
Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2006 #5
Readers first meet orphaned ten-year-old Moon as he buries his survivalist father in a remote forested tract. He has been raised to be entirely self-sufficient, dependent on no one -- especially "the government" -- for help. His plan to make his way to Alaska to join other survivalists is waylaid when the new owner of the property finds him and turns him over to the state. Moon tells his story in homespun prose, his loneliness bleeding through his determination to make it on his own and his overwhelming love for the outdoors. So thoroughly does first-time author Key inhabit his protagonist that readers will feel Moon's happy amazement at such comforts as the high quality of jail food. When, with two other boys, Moon escapes the orphanage-cum-detention-center he has been placed in and tries to live with them in the wild, he realizes that he needs companionship and that, moreover, his Pap might have been wrong. This weighty moral understanding emerges naturally, sharing space easily with topnotch survival action and exuberantly illicit romps in a beat-up pickup. It's a winningly fresh and sympathetic look at a life and culture almost never seen in children's books. Copyright 2006 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2006 August #2
All his life, Moon Blake has lived with his reclusive father, Oliver, on a remote tract of land in the woods surviving only on what they trap and grow. Soon after Moon turns ten, his father dies, leaving Moon to fend for himself. Before dying, Oliver instructs Moon to go to Alaska where he'll find people just like them. Instead, Moon is taken and placed in a boys' home where he loves having friends, but cannot bear being confined. Moon runs away with two boys, Kit and Hal, to the woods, where they live wild and free, evading capture, until Kit needs serious medical attention. Alone again, Moon begins to question his father's lifestyle. With help from a friend, Moon is united with a paternal uncle he never knew he had and is ready to live in a house, sleep on a bed and eager to be a part of a loving family. Key writes honestly about hunting, trapping and the hardships of survival in this rather unusual coming-of-age story. (Fiction. 10-14) Copyright Kirkus 2006 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2006 October #1
First-time author Key's absorbing survival tale features a 10-year-old hermit, who feels more at home among forest creatures than people. Raised in a primitive shelter deep in the Alabama woods, Moon Blake knows only two people: Pap, a Vietnam veteran holding a grudge against the government, and Mr. Abroscotto, the storekeeper in Gainsville who buys their vegetables and sells them provisions. After Pap dies, Moon fully intends to carry out his father's wishes by finding his way to Alaska, a place where "no one would find him" and "people could still make a living off trapping." But the authorities want to make Moon a ward of the state. During a harrowing cat-and-mouse game against mean-spirited Constable Sanders, Moon gets a taste of society, and he even makes friends during his brief stint at a boys' home, where he carries out an escape plan and brings two boys back to the forest with him. Over time, however, Moon begins to question his father's lifestyle and beliefs, especially when his friend Kit takes ill and is in need of medical attention. Besides offering adventure, the book provides a detailed account of lessons Moon's father has taught him on being self-sufficient. If Moon emerges as too sociable and articulate a character for someone who has grown up in an isolated environment, he remains likable; readers will admire his ability to outwit authority figures. Ages 10-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal Review 2006 September
Gr 6-8 Moon, 10, has spent most of his life in a camouflaged shelter in the forest with his father, a Vietnam veteran who distrusts people and the government. Pap has educated him in both academics and survival skills. His life suddenly changes when the land is sold to a lawyer and his father dies. The lawyer discovers him and, believing what he is doing is best for the child, turns him over to Mr. Gene from the local boysÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ home. When Moon escapes, Mr. Gene alerts the constable, an emotionally unstable bully who becomes obsessed with capturing him. Once at the home, though, Moon makes his first real friends and learns what friendship is all about. Much of the story revolves around multiple chases, captures, and escapes. The ending might be a bit too perfect, but it is a happy one for Moon. The book is well written with a flowing style, plenty of dialogue, and lots of action. The characters are well drawn and three-dimensional, except for the constablebut then, maybe thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s all there is to him. Even those who knew him as a child have nothing good to say about him. The language is in keeping with the charactersÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ personalities and the situations. Although Moon is only 10, older readers will also enjoy the book and will better understand the adultsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ perspectives.Nancy P. Reeder, Heathwood Hall Episcopal School, Columbia, SC[Page 209]. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.