Monday, June 3, 2013

Book Review: No Moon by Irene N. Watts

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Title: No Moon
Author: Irene N. Watts
Publisher: Tundra Books
Paperback: 234 pages
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)
Louisa Gardener is the fourteen-year-old nursemaid to the young daughters of a wealthy, titled family living in London, England, in 1912. 
 Despite the bullying Nanny Mackintosh, for whom she is an extra pair of hands, she loves her work and her young charges. Then everything changes. The family decides to sail to New York aboard the Titanic. An accident to the children's nanny, only days prior to the sailing, means that Louisa must go in her stead. She cannot refuse, although she dreads even the mention of the ocean. Memories she has suppressed, except in nightmares, come crowding back. 
When Louisa was five and her sister seven years old, their two-year-old brother died on an outing to the seaside. Since that time, Louisa has had a fear of the ocean. She blames herself for the accident, though she has been told it wasn't her fault. 
If Louisa refuses to go on the voyage, she will be dismissed, and she will never get beyond the working-class life she has escaped from.

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5

No Moon is a story about Louisa, a nursemaid who finds herself in charge of two young children while their family sails on the Titanic. Threading factual information about the early twentieth century within a personal narrative format, Watts gives a general overview of what life was like in the early twentieth century within a story that tells of the tragedy of the Titanic. In some ways, I was disappointed by this book, but I can see how that might be useful for introducing children to the subject of the Titanic and the early 1900s.

The Good Things:

This is a great book for children who are reluctant or beginning readers. The story is simple, easy to follow, short, and moves along quickly. It provides a nice contrast between the people of the working-class and upper-class in England during the early twentieth century, and even hints at the burgeoning of the women's rights movement. I could see elementary school teachers reading this aloud in their class to complement a history unit for this time period. It brings up a lot of things to reflect and learn about, such as women's rights, marriage practices, work practices, family dynamics, etc., which makes it a great starter for a unit.

The Bad Things:

As an adult reader, I was a little disappointed in story's lack of complexity. I think that the emotional response of the Titanic's sinking could have been explored further. Instead, the characters said something along the lines of, "Oh, this is so terrible!" And then the story moved on. On a related note, the characters also seemed over-simplified, and I would have liked to see more growth or change within the side characters.

Overall, I think this is a great introduction to the story of the Titanic and it introduces topics that children could research and explore on their own. It'd be a good pleasure read for kids interested in the subject, but I could definitely see elementary school teachers using this in their classroom as an introduction to early twentieth century England and the Titanic.

*I was provided a free copy of this book from the publisher through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program in exchange for an honest review.*