Sally Gardner, a native of England, won the 2012 Costa Children’s Book Award for MAGGOT MOON. Like her main character, Gardner has struggled with severe dyslexia her entire life. Despite being a bright and creative woman, Gardner learned to read at age 14. After working 15 years in theatre, she has become a successful writer with the help of editor Judith Elliot.
"This book is a page-turner. It is one that I would like to read multiple times to fully understand every detail."
Standish is a clever young man in a dystopic society. He’s 15, can’t read or write and yet, he is too smart for his own good. His parents disappeared --- or died --- years ago. So many people have died and disappeared in Zone Seven that to Standish it doesn't even matter which one happened to his parents. He knows they are gone, they will never come back, and someday, soon or very far in the future, the same will happen to him.
Standish lives with his Gramps, a resourceful man who believes in the power of sticking together. He has learned how to sniff out good people from bad, which has helped Standish and himself form many important alliances. He understands Standish’s different kind of intelligence, but knows that there is no room and therefore no help for a creative, out-of-the-box thinker like Standish. So Gramps encourages Standish to just do his best to not get kicked out of school.
Life starts to change for Standish when the Lushes move in. Their son, Hector, accepts and respects Standish’s imagination. They instantly become friends. Hector is a little more accepted; he can answer all answers in school correctly, and he can prevent beatings from the bullies for both Standish and himself. His family has a mysterious past.
Standish and Hector have dreams of sending their papier-mâché flying saucer to planet Juniper (not a misspelling), a planet that Standish found in his head. They did not want to go to the moon like their nation was about to do. Zone Seven will be the strongest nation when it goes to the moon, if that is really what they are doing. And after Hector retrieves their football from behind the forbidden wall, the idea of going to planet Juniper is lost. Now they have to find a way to show the nation what is truly happening with the Motherlands trip to the moon.
This book is a page-turner. It is one that I would like to read multiple times to fully understand every detail. I’m especially intrigued by Julian Crouch’s etchings featured throughout the book. I had nightmares about maggots because of the detailed prints, but their connection to the story helped me stop and think more than I normally do while reading.
I wanted to read this book, because my boyfriend is dyslexic. I thought it might help me understand more about the way a person with dyslexia thinks or feels. Though there are no specific examples of the struggles a person with dyslexia faces, it did teach me something. It showed me that the biggest struggle for a person with dyslexia is right at the beginning of learning. Showing people that you are intelligent is not easy when you are not passing the normal tests of intelligence, like reading, at that age.
Gardner says, “I strongly believe that dyslexia is like a Rubik’s Cube: it takes time to work out how to deal with it but once you do, it can be the most wonderful gift.The problem with dyslexia for many young people --- and I can identify with this --- is that their confidence is so damaged by the negativity of their teachers and their peers that it takes a very strong character to come out of the educational system smiling.”
This book helped me open my eyes to ways that I can be more empathetic and resourceful to someone with dyslexia who had to prove their intelligence. Like Hector, who loves Standish and his creativity, we can work together.
Reviewed by Ruth Vandevanter on February 12, 2013