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  • Written by Shana Burg
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On Sale: June 12, 2012
Pages: 256 | ISBN: 978-0-375-98568-3
Published by : Delacorte Books for Young Readers RH Childrens Books
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

Laugh with the Moon is on the Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List.

  Thirteen-year-old Clare Silver is stuck. Stuck in denial about her mother’s recent death. Stuck in the African jungle for sixty-four days without phone reception. Stuck with her father, a doctor who seems able to heal everyone but Clare.
Clare feels like a fish out of water at Mzanga Full Primary School, where she must learn a new language. Soon, though, she becomes immersed in her new surroundings and impressed with her fellow students, who are crowded into a tiny space, working on the floor among roosters and centipedes.
   When Clare’s new friends take her on an outing to see the country, the trip goes horribly wrong, and Clare must face another heartbreak head-on. Only an orphan named Memory, who knows about love and loss, can teach Clare how to laugh with the moon.
   Told from an American girl’s perspective, this story about how death teaches us to live and how love endures through our memories will capture the hearts of readers everywhere.

Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

I press my nose against the airplane window and breathe faster, faster, more, more, more. I try to erase what's outside. In my mind, I beg for someone to help me. Help me! I want to yell. But you know, who would? Who could? Only Dad, of course, and flying here was his idea in the first place.

Branches slam against each other in the wind and rain. The jungle is so crowded. How can anything possibly grow in it? My eyes trace a thick vine twisting around and around an enormous tree trunk, desperately trying to choke the life out of it. Who will win: the vine or the tree? I don't like that vine. I don't like it one bit.

I breathe even faster, and by the time the plane jolts to a stop, I've covered the window with mist. Now I can't see outside, can't see where I'm going to be stuck for the next nine weeks. All I can do is watch my father pack up the medical report that he's been poring over ever since we switched planes a few hours ago. "Come on, honey," he says, as if he hasn't just torn me away from home, as if he hasn't made me leave all my friends and memories behind.

He tucks the medical report neatly inside his army-green traveler's backpack. I unbuckle my seat belt and stand. My heart thumps, quick and light, quick and light, never touching down for a full beat. While Dad checks the messages on his cell phone, there's a creak. Then a loud, long roar. I crouch and wipe off the window to look for the airplane racing down the runway, about to escape. But I don't see another plane, only forest-green, olive-green, green-gold. And rain, rain, rain.

A blast of heat fills the cabin. The month of January really is summer in this place. Under my sweater and jeans, tiny beads of sweat bubble up all over my skin. I take off my cotton scarf and stuff it into my backpack while that strange roar grows louder.

A dark-skinned woman stands in the row of seats in front of me, her head wrapped in a bright red cloth. A tall, thin girl stands beside her, a younger version of the woman. The girl talks to her mother in a language that sounds like fireworks, full of bursts and pops. She holds her hand over her mouth, giggling. I try not to look at her. She probably has so many minutes with her mother she can't even count them.

I grab the gold heart pendant hanging around my neck, feel the dent that I chewed right into the middle of it. Mom made it for me a few years ago when she took a jewelry design class at the center for adult education. Dad slips his phone into his pocket and gives me a squeeze around my shoulders. I pull away.

"How long are you going to keep up the silent treatment?" he asks.

I check my watch and adjust for the eight-hour time difference between Boston and here. I haven't spoken for the entire trip, not even during the layover in South Africa. That would put me at a grand total of twenty-six hours and thirty-two minutes, never mind that I was sleeping for at least eighteen of them. It's so impressive--maybe even a world record--that I actually consider sharing the news.

But I don't, because that would break my promise, and in my book, promises are not meant to be broken. Not promises fathers make to daughters, like "I'll take care of you" and "I always have your best interest at heart." And not promises daughters make to fathers, like "I will never speak to you until you take me back where I belong."

I follow Dad down the cramped aisle. The rumble grows louder and my breath snakes up my throat. Soon I'm at the mouth of the plane. I realize it's the crazy storm outside that's making such a racket. Cold raindrops prick me like needles. There isn't even a tunnel connecting the airplane to the airport.

A flight attendant stands by the cockpit. "Welcome to Malawi," she says, and smiles. I know that I should smile back. It's the right thing to do. But I can't. I doubt I'll ever smile again.

A bolt of lightning strikes the treetops. I'm thinking it's pretty dumb to stand on a metal staircase in an African storm. We could be killed.

But my father? He's another story! He inhales the slate-gray sky like it's full of jasmine, like the smell of this place is a total thrill. Then he clomps down the metal staircase to the runway. I mean, I'm sure he's clomping, but I can't hear his footsteps; I can't even see him very well, because the storm is that vicious, that wild.

When he reaches the runway, he turns to make sure that I'm following. But I'm not. I'm not going.

"Have a lovely day," the flight attendant says. "Thank you for flying Air Malawi."

Rain screams down from the sky. Lightning too. Here I am, five years old again, standing on the edge of the high diving board. I suck in my breath and squeeze my eyes shut. One, two, three! Then I do it. I run down the steps and wait to be taken to my death--too young and too suddenly--just like my mom.
Shana Burg

About Shana Burg

Shana Burg - Laugh with the Moon

Photo © Gabriella Tal

Shana Burg is a writer who lives in Austin, Texas. She started her first novel, A Thousand Never Evers, while teaching sixth grade in Massachusetts, and she hired her former students to critique the first draft. “Their advice was right on the money,” she says. Prior to teaching sixth grade, Shana worked on a Mississippi community nutrition project, and at Facing History and Ourselves, an educational nonprofit. Shana majored in English at the University of Pennsylvania, graduated with a Master in Public Policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and received a Master of Arts in Teaching from Simmons College.


I was born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1968. My parents had moved there from New York several years earlier so that my father could work as a lawyer in the civil rights movement. Although we moved to Massachusetts when I was still a baby, I grew up hearing amazing stories about the struggle for justice and equality. I remember my father talking about the segregated maternity wards in Birmingham, where white women could recover from childbirth in semi-private rooms with air conditioning, while black women were forced to recover in 16-bed wards in sweltering heat. It was stories like this that sparked my interest in the civil rights movement.

Some upsetting things happened during my middle and high school years that made me think a lot about discrimination and equality. For example, in high school social studies, we sat alphabetically by last name. It so happened that in my corner of the class were all Jews and an African American girl. My teacher called our corner “the ghetto.” He’d say, “Would someone in the ghetto like to answer this question?” And in gym class, during floor hockey games, boys shoved my close friend into the wall and whispered “Kike” in his ear.

In high school, as part of ninth-grade English, I took a class called Facing History and Ourselves. This course challenged me to see connections between events in history and the ethical choices I made each day. My teacher, Jan Darsa, actually talked about things that mattered: why friends turn on each other, why kids are afraid to stand up to bullies, and how easy it is to go along with the crowd. We talked about the Holocaust. And then we talked about how people throughout history have stood up and fought against injustice. That class had a big impact on me. (So much so that many years later, I went to work for the Facing History and Ourselves organization.)

Throughout my school years, I remained interested in human and civil rights. In college, during one spring break, my father brought my sister and me to Birmingham, Alabama, to meet his former law partner and his other friends from back in the 1960s. I remember driving by the Sixteenth Street Birmingham Baptist Church with a friend of my father’s. She told us she had been there the day it was bombed, and that one of her best friends, 11-year-old Denise McNair, had been killed. That really shook me to the core.

After college and graduate school, I got a job with a Mississippi community nutrition project. I was based in Boston, but spoke on the phone regularly with local residents of the Mississippi Delta. I had the opportunity to spend time in the Delta too. As someone who’d grown up in the Northeast, I was immediately grabbed by the warmth, friendliness, and good humor of the people I met there. And I was struck by the incredible poverty–poverty that I’d expect to see in a developing country. I was shocked that there were still segregated schools and towns divided between the black and white sides by railroad tracks running through the middle.

The more I learned about policy related to hunger, poverty, and education, the more I wanted to work directly with young people, so I decided to go back to school and get my degree in teaching. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. I love being in the classroom. Talk about an adventure! You never know what’s going to happen on any given day. Middle school students are so creative, hilarious, and real.

It was spring. I was teaching a unit on elements of fiction to my sixth graders. I read picture books to help them understand plot, character, theme, conflict, setting, etc. For homework each night, I’d give an assignment that would help them develop their own creative stories. One day, in the midst of this unit, my students and I had the opportunity to visit with the incredibly talented author David Almond. We’d read his book Skellig aloud. Now I’d always written short stories, poems, and newspaper articles–and I can’t tell you exactly what David Almond said that did it–but I left his talk completely fired up to start writing a book for my students.

That afternoon, as soon as I got home from school, I did the homework that I’d assigned my class. That’s when this 12-year-old African American girl popped in my head. She was sitting on the bank of the bayou, absolutely panic stricken. At the time, I didn’t know who she was, what year it was, or why this girl was so freaked out. I started free writing to find out. Eight years later, I finished A Thousand Never Evers. Now finally, I'm thrilled to say, I'm ready to share Addie Ann Pickett's story with the world.
Praise | Awards

Praise

Publishers Weekly, May 14, 2012:
"The setting and cast emerge as real standouts, especially Clare’s friend Memory, who tells her, 'Even the mourner must stop and laugh with the moon.' As this memorable heroine contends with loss, Burg balances tragedy with hope and resilience."

Starred Review, School Library Journal, June 2012:
“This lyrical story will be consumed in one long sitting, but the characters will stay with readers for a very long time.

The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, September 2012:
"The novel is strongest in its presentation of loss and mourning; Clare’s emotions in dealing with her mother are raw, and the additional loss of Innocent brings many of those feelings back."


From the Hardcover edition.

Awards

FINALIST Texas Bluebonnet Master List
NOMINEE NCSS/CBC Notable Children's Trade Books in the Field of Social Studies
NOMINEE 2014 Vermont Dorothy Canfield Fischer Book Master List
SELECTION 2013 NCSS/CBC Notable Children's Trade Books in the Field of Social Studies
SUBMITTED Missouri Mark Twain Award

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