Mooncalf by Linda Zern
Over Olympia and Leah’s heads, Americans race the Russians to the moon; on their television sets young men fight and struggle in the mud of Viet Nam; and America holds its breath between heartbreaking tragedies.
But on Miss Brinker’s school bus, in the seat with the rip in the green plastic, Olympia and Leah fall in love, the way children do: immediately, completely, and without knowing or caring why they shouldn’t. Olympia Crooms, with her happy hair, and Leah Breck, with her silly red dog, are two smart girls.
Olympia’s father works other men’s orange groves in rural Central Florida and tells his daughter that school is the best way to reach for the stars. Leah’s father moves his family from the Space Coast to the country where she and her brother can climb orange trees, imagine lions in the tall grass, and learn to feed baby cows milk from a bottle.
At Evegan Elementary, two smart girls find each other and have to decide if they will learn the hardest lessons of all: the false traditions of their fathers.
Praise for Mooncalf
“One of the most admirable things about Mooncalf is that it’s difficult to find a single wasted word in the entire book. Granted the book is short; yet, it is very rare to find a book which treats with such delicacy the choosing of each word–each adjective, verb, and noun. Themes, motifs, and symbols are everywhere throughout Mooncalf, and most impressive of all none of it is discarded. Motifs and themes exist in big and small circles in Mooncalf, circling back in on themselves as well as intertwining themselves with the plot and the characters that inhabit it. And those motifs and themes, those messages and those symbols, don’t go away once you’ve finished the book. They stick with you. It’s hard to forget Mooncalf.”” ~ The Thousander Club
“I never expected to be moved to tears by a book meant for adolescents. Buy it, read it, share it, and let yourself be changed by it.” ~Lacey Smith
Author Linda Zern
Linda Zern is a native of Florida where she learned to be moonstruck.
She wrote her first children’s chapter book, The Pocket Fairies of Middleburg, in 2005. Writer’s Digest called “the perspective of these tiny beings [the pocket fairies] refreshing, enchanting, and intriguing.”
Florida Publisher’s Association was kind enough to award her little book the President’s Book Award for best children’s book of 2005.
Mrs. Zern has since published an inspirational book, The Long-Promised Song, serving as both writer and illustrator. Three collections of her humorous essays (ZippityZern’s Uncommon Nonsense) can be found at Smashwords.com, and her award winning essays have been recognized and published at HumorPress.com.
Her current project, Mooncalf, is her first work of historical fiction for Middle School readers. Set in rural Central Florida, the author tells the story of two misfit girls and the hard lessons they must learn about friendship and love from their friends, their families, and their world.
The mystical state of Florida remains an enchanted and delightsome place for both Mrs. Zern and her husband of thirty plus years, and so they continue to make their home among the palmettos and armadillos in the historic town of Saint Cloud.
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Olympia’s voice was a whisper in Leah’s ear.
“I don’t have those things, those cooties.”
“I know. I don’t even care what those things are.”
“Cootie bugs. Miss Rhodes is saying I have bugs crawling and living in my hair and at my house.”
“Miss Rhodes didn’t mean you.” Leah felt icky. “She couldn’t mean you.”
“It’s because I’m one of the poor kids, you know. She said it: sharecroppers.”
Without looking, Olympia pulled her hand out of Leah’s and started trying to flatten the wrinkles out of the crushed paper doily on the valentine. Leah put her hand over Olympia’s, the valentine a ruined mess under their fingers.
“But Miss Rhodes has hair just like yours.”
“No,” Olympia said, shaking her head. “No, Miss Rhodes doesn’t want hair like mine, like she had when she was a little girl. She wants white folk’s hair. That’s what Granny Mac says. ‘Cuz some colored folks like her don’t know who they want to be any more.’”
Leah looked at the neat part in her friend’s black braids, and loved the way Olympia’s barrettes danced when she dropped her head. She saw only the complicated, clever patterns in her friend’s clean black hair.
Leah saw only Olympia.
The bus engine growled, loud enough to rattle the windows.
“Hey! There’s a big, red monkey riding on the roof of that car,” a girl sitting behind Leah hollered.
“No, it’s a dog—a big, red dog. And it’s surfing right up on top of that roof.” Across the aisle from Leah, a boy with big horse teeth pointed, screaming with laughter.
“That is so far out and gross!” someone else said.
“Hey, green sweater girl!” One of the big kids in the back of the bus started yelling at one of the little kids sitting in the front of the bus.
Leah was one of the kids sitting in the front of the bus, and she was little.
She did not turn around. He couldn’t be yelling at her, not on her first day at a new school. He’s not. It was a mistake. Leah looked down at her green sweater and started to count the pearl buttons. Why couldn’t she be a turtle with no ears and disappear inside her green sweater shell? It was probably pretty quiet inside a turtle’s shell.
Right before the children’s bedtime, the mercury read twenty-nine degrees and the head grove worker, the boss man, ordered the crews to light the smudge pots and set the tires on fire.
Fire roared out of the top of the pots. Smoke rolled over the trees. The workers scurried back and forth through the trees, watching the fires. Black choking smoke rolled off of the burning tires. It wasn’t the fires that were supposed to save the trees; it was the smoke. The grove workers hoped the cloud over the trees would hold the heat in like a blanket.
The smudge pot fires filled the grove with globes of light shaped like mushrooms, as clouds of oily smoke drifted. Shadows grew and got long, thrown weirdly out of proportion by the mix of flame and smoke. The grove workers hurried from pot to pot. Their scurrying bodies cast ten-foot-tall stick figure shadows against the backdrop of orange trees grown heavy and drooping with fruit. The shadow men flopped their way through the trees like scarecrows. Their arms folded and unfolded like a spider’s legs weaving webs out of black fog. Some of the shadow men had huge, swollen, bubble- headed shadows—because of their big, round hair.
That’s it for today, so if you have time, please scroll back through the last few posts and enter other open giveaways. Plus, I did an author interview on Monday for another book you might want to read. Thanks for visiting!