How High the Moon

Written by Karyn Parsons
Review by Melissa Warren

What are the ingredients of a happy childhood? Karyn Parsons answers this question in her stunningly beautiful novel set in Clarendon County, South Carolina, during the Jim Crow era. While exploring the brutal complexities of the American South in 1943, Parsons makes a strong case that love, community, and fortitude are those ingredients.

How High the Moon is the story of cousins Ella, Henry, and Myrna who live with their Granny and Poppy on a vegetable farm. Although their town, Alcolu, is segregated, the three middle-schoolers enjoy a life of fishing, farming, and friends despite the danger they face each time they leave home. Granny and Poppy do their best to help them navigate a world filled with “White Only” signs and hateful looks, but the children long for their absent parents.

For Ella, her longing transforms into hope when her mother suddenly sends a telegram inviting her to Boston. Young Ella is stunned by the freedom she finds walking the streets of Boston with her mother, but most days, she is trapped alone in a tiny apartment, desperately trying to solve the mystery of her father’s identity. Meanwhile, Henry and Myrna struggle to cope with the tragic fate of their classmate George Stinney. It is not until the three are reunited that they begin to heal as a family.

Parsons creates a dynamic portrait of a time and place of great love and great sorrow. Seeing the community of Alcolu through the eyes of Ella, Henry, and Myrna transforms a historical event no child should have to live through into a story every child should read. I highly recommend this novel for ages eight and up.