'How High The Moon' by Karyn Parsons is a superbly written and tender story that subtly and compassionately depicts a black childhood in 1940s America.
Set in a Southern town in the USA in 1944, 'How High the Moon' follows the story of eleven-year-old Ella as she comes to terms with racial segregation and the complexities of her own family. Moving to Boston to be with her Mama, Ella discovers a very different world, but struggles to find her place. Once she returns to the South, she is confronted with devastating news that will shock her town for a long time.
This is an important and moving book, and one which is all the more relevant and necessary for a world divided as it seems today. Karyn Parsons is a truly accomplished and gifted writer. Switching between three narrative viewpoints, Parsons is able to deftly manage changes in voice and emotion with aplomb. She captures the dialect of the times expertly and with nuance, bringing to life an era not usually explored in quite this way. I was completely absorbed by the characters, especially Ella.
Some younger readers will find this challenging, but this is a good thing. Teachers and parents will be able to provoke a lot of discussion and research from the text. I can imagine able classes being swept along by the voices of Ella, Henry and Myrna. However, some children may find it a bit too much and will need some help to understand and unpick the many themes in this book. A story for pre-teens, perhaps.
Karyn Parsons is an incredibly brave and skilled writer. More children need to be exposed to such material, and I look forward to what Parsons might do next.