Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Laugh with the Moon by Shana Burg + a recipe

I found this at the library one day browsing around like I do; it was on my list to read for possible Iowa Children's Choice book awards.  It was the last one I read in my tall stack of choices and it was one of the best.

I loved that both boys and girls would enjoy the story even though it is told from a 13-year-old girl's point of view and that we learn so much about the country of Malawi.  Clare is a spunky character who is filled with grief over her recently deceased mother.  Ever wonder why so many realistic fiction books for kids involve death?  Her father is a doctor working for a world aid organization and probably to help his own grief he takes on this journey back to Malawi where he served before Clare was born.  I think both parent and child are in need of a change of scenery even though Clare isn't aware yet of how much this trip will mean to her.

Even though she is completely bitter on the first leg of their travels and her anger grows when she sees the small cabin where they will live she makes friends in the village and at school.  She helps to change lives while their as she teaches English to the youngest children at school and gets everybody involved in a play.

A quote:

Outside, Memory shows me a dress that's hanging from a clothesline behind the hut. In the dusk, I can't tell if it's blue or green or gray, but I can see the shape of it just fine.  I don't mean to be rude, but it looks like a pilgrim frock.  Still, I'm a firm believer in stretching the truth in the name of friendship.  At this rate, Memory might be the only person I'm speaking to on the entire African continent, so I tell her "It's so cool!" even though I'd never be caught dead wearing something like that myself.  (37)

She does indeed end up wearing a dress quite similar to her new friend Memory's "pilgrim" dress and that is not her only compromise she must make.

I loved this book for the experience it offered me; while lots of books are written about dead mothers, not many share such an interesting path through grief.  I love that her mother appears to her when she needs her most and that through their journey we get to see a part of life in Africa especially since this continent is in the news right now.  Burg has first hand experience in Malawi and that helps us get a realistic feel for the country.

At the end of the book is a recipe for Sweet Potato Biscuits that I just had to try.  I made them, we loved them, and then the dog stole the rest of the biscuits right off the counter and ate every last crumb..

Mbatata (Sweet Potato) Biscuits

1/4 cup mashed cooked sweet potatoes
1/4 cup milk
4 T melted butter
1 1/4 cups sifted flour
2 tsp baking powder
6 T sugar, plus 2 T to sprinkle on top
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon, plus additional 1/2 tsp to sprinkle on top

Preheat the oven to 375*. Mix the sweet potatoes, milk, and melted butter and beat well.  Sift together the flour, baking powder, 6 T of the sugar, the salt, and 1/4 tsp of cinnamon and add gradually to the sweet potato mixture.  Drop by tablespoonfuls onto a greased baking sheet.  Mix the additional cinnamon and sugar and sprinkle on top.  Bake for 15 minutes.

They were delicious.  Even the dog thought so.  I didn't even sprinkle on the extra sugar topping.  I plan to make them again for Thanksgiving.

Read this book, share it with any elementary and early middle school students, share it with your class as a read-aloud.  Right now it could provide an empathy for the people of Africa as they struggle with the affects of the Ebola disease.

Shana Burg is also the author of A Thousand Never Evers an excellent historical fiction that takes place in Mississippi in 1963.

1 comment:

Becca said...

This sounds like a great read! I need to look for this!