A Place to Hang the Moon

Written by Kate Albus
Review by Lyn Miller-Lachmann

Orphans William, Edmund, and Anna have recently lost their only living relative, their grandmother. Because it’s 1940 and the Germans are bombing London nightly, they’ve been evacuated to a rural village, three of thousands of evacuees during the war. The children—aged 12, 11, and 9, respectively—are excited about the possibility of having real parents, ones who love them unconditionally and believe they “hang the moon.” As the eldest, William feels responsible for his siblings, while Anna’s sweetness and love of books are what she hopes will charm a new family. Edmund, though, speaks his mind and seems to get into trouble wherever he goes. Their dreams of family life dissipate soon after their arrival when they are billeted with selfish parents who only care about their own children and, after a prank goes bad, with an overwhelmed, impoverished mother of four children whose father is off fighting. The children find refuge in the library, but the librarian is a pariah in the community, an “unsuitable” influence.

The omniscient narration reflects the values and pace of a different place and time, with language and description that immerse the reader in the World War II home front. The books the children read—the classic histories, adventure tales, and fantasies of the era—are the shoulders this novel stands on as Albus pays homage to the authors of the past. Her novel is an outstanding example of a family story that ends up as a community story, drawing in multiple perspectives as the siblings and the villagers come to work together in the face of crisis and loss. Rooted in the past, this is a perfect story for today.