Over Olympia and Leah's heads, Americans race the Russians to the moon; on their television sets young men fight and struggle in the mud of Viet Nam; and America holds its breath between heartbreaking tragedies.
But on Miss Brinker's school bus, in the seat with the rip in the green plastic, Olympia and Leah fall in love, the way children do: immediately, completely, and without knowing or caring why they shouldn't. Olympia Crooms, with her happy hair, and Leah Breck, with her silly red dog, are two smart girls.
Olympia's father works other men's orange groves in rural Central Florida and tells his daughter that school is the best way to reach for the stars. Leah's father moves his family from the Space Coast to the country where she and her brother can climb orange trees, imagine lions in the tall grass, and learn to feed baby cows milk from a bottle.
At Evegan Elementary, two smart girls find each other and have to decide if they will learn the hardest lessons of all: the false traditions of their fathers.
"One of the most admirable things about Mooncalf is that it's difficult to find a single wasted word in the entire book. Granted the book is short; yet, it is very rare to find a book which treats with such delicacy the choosing of each word--each adjective, verb, and noun. Themes, motifs, and symbols are everywhere throughout Mooncalf, and most impressive of all none of it is discarded. Motifs and themes exist in big and small circles in Mooncalf, circling back in on themselves as well as intertwining themselves with the plot and the characters that inhabit it. And those motifs and themes, those messages and those symbols, don't go away once you've finished the book. They stick with you. It's hard to forget Mooncalf."" ~ The Thousander Club
"I never expected to be moved to tears by a book meant for adolescents. Buy it, read it, share it, and let yourself be changed by it." ~Lacey Smith
Excerpt from the book
Right before the children’s bedtime, the mercury read twenty-nine degrees and the head grove worker, the boss man, ordered the crews to light the smudge pots and set the tires on fire.
Fire roared out of the top of the pots. Smoke rolled over the trees. The workers scurried back and forth through the trees, watching the fires. Black choking smoke rolled off of the burning tires. It wasn’t the fires that were supposed to save the trees; it was the smoke. The grove workers hoped the cloud over the trees would hold the heat in like a blanket.
The smudge pot fires filled the grove with globes of light shaped like mushrooms, as clouds of oily smoke drifted. Shadows grew and got long, thrown weirdly out of proportion by the mix of flame and smoke. The grove workers hurried from pot to pot. Their scurrying bodies cast ten-foot-tall stick figure shadows against the backdrop of orange trees grown heavy and drooping with fruit. The shadow men flopped their way through the trees like scarecrows. Their arms folded and unfolded like a spider’s legs weaving webs out of black fog. Some of the shadow men had huge, swollen, bubble- headed shadows—because of their big, round hair.
Linda Zern is a native of Florida where she learned to be moonstruck.
She wrote her first children's chapter book, The Pocket Fairies of Middleburg, in 2005. Writer's Digest called "the perspective of these tiny beings [the pocket fairies] refreshing, enchanting, and intriguing."
Florida Publisher's Association was kind enough to award her little book the President's Book Award for best children's book of 2005.
Mrs. Zern has since published an inspirational book, The Long-Promised Song, serving as both writer and illustrator. Three collections of her humorous essays (ZippityZern’s Uncommon Nonsense) can be found at Smashwords.com, and her award winning essays have been recognized and published at HumorPress.com.
Her current project, Mooncalf, is her first work of historical fiction for Middle School readers. Set in rural Central Florida, the author tells the story of two misfit girls and the hard lessons they must learn about friendship and love from their friends, their families, and their world.
The mystical state of Florida remains an enchanted and delightsome place for both Mrs. Zern and her husband of thirty plus years, and so they continue to make their home among the palmettos and armadillos in the historic town of Saint Cloud.
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