Reviewed for this blog by Rebecca, Case Memorial Library
A dazzling blend of historical fiction, magic realism, and Norwegian folktales, West of the Moon is the story of Astri, a 13-year-old goat girl with loads of gumption. After her mother dies and her father leaves for America, Astri is sold by her greedy aunt and uncle to the loathsome goatherd, Svaalberd, separating her from her beloved younger sister Greta. Threatened with a trip to the altar, she decides it is time to take matters into her own hands. Along with the mysterious “Spinning Girl,” she escapes Svaalberd, rescues her sister, and makes her way to America.
Astri is a fierce and tremendously likeable character, despite the fact that she lies, cheat, steals, and maims to get to America. In fact, none of the characters are wholly good or bad (even the nasty, lecherous goatherd!) and there is a constant questioning of morality that ties in nicely with the fairytale aspect.
This story is less than 200 pages but it feels much longer – in a good way – due to the vivid sensory details and fast-paced action. Preus effortlessly weaves together Astri’s fictional adventure with folktales as well stories from her own great-great grandmother’s diary entries. The result is a rich, engaging, and suspenseful story from start to finish.
Overall, I think this is a beautiful book worthy of all five stars it’s received. However, aside from a very brief threat at sexual violence, I think the subject matter and voice skew too young to be considered a Printz contender. I’m willing to bet this will receive some Newbery attention.