Friday, August 19, 2011

Book Review: Magpie Gabbard and the Quest for the Buried Moon, by Sally M. Keehn

"There ain't nothing like grit. Grit gives you the wherewithall to keep on doing what you're doing, even though it's hard, and it seems impossible and you feel like giving up."

It's October 2, 1872. Magpie Gabbard has just turned thirteen years old. And she is bound and determined to leave her home atop Gabbard Mountain, find her brother Milo, and give him back the foot he sorely needs, so he can get to High Jerusalem.

Magpie's quest is not without its difficulties: Big Mama is bound and determined not to see another of her underage children go off-mountain, never to return. There's also those pernicious Sizemores down in Squabble Town to think about, and the dreaded Cob Hollow Goblins to avoid. And then there's the fact that Milo is living inside a hollowed-out sycamore somewhere in faraway Pergatory, Kentucky. Plus, Milo's got a deadline: he has to get to High Jerusalem by October 16th.

Help comes to Magpie from some most unusual sources: the moon, Granny Goforth and her prophesying kettle, a talking head floating in a well, and a boar called Wild Bill, to name just a few. But, is all this enough to help Magpie find Milo? And can she get to him in time?

For Teachers and Librarians:
Magpie Gabbard and the Quest for the Buried Moon has a little bit of everything. In the genre department, it's part American tall tale, part fairy tale, with a wee bit of time travel thrown in. It is a great companion to a unit on the Appalachian regions of the United States, shining a bit of light on mannerisms, speech patterns, and a peek in general into the ways of 19th century Appalachian life. Or, use it as a springboard for a side study of the famous Hatfield and McCoy feud, or other famous family feuds. Break out a lesson on the interesting vocabulary words used in the book, both real (such as pernicious) and made-up (such as cussedness). Perhaps you'd like to delve into a mini unit on Eastern Kentucky, or Tennessee, or both. There's even a bit of an overseas connection in this story (the Gabbards originally came to the US from England), which leads nicely into having your students research their roots. How did their own families find their way to America? There are so many ways to branch out with this book. Which will you choose to share with your students?

For Parents, Grandparents and Caregivers:
Magpie Gabbard and the Quest for the Buried Moon is, when it comes right down to it, a story about the bonds of family. And the Gabbard family, like most, is not without its warts: misunderstandings amongst family members, a long-running feud with the Sizemore family down-mountain, and a love for each other that's so sometimes tends to smother. But Magpie and her family find a way to work through it all and come out stronger by the end. It's a story that will have you looking a bit askance at the disembodied talking head, chuckling at sibling pranks gone awry, and nodding in a wee bit of understanding at Big Mama's drastic yet done-out-of-fierce-love measures to secure safety for her children. It will have your kids enthralled with Magpie's attempts to ride a wild boar, and nodding in understanding at Magpie's conflicting feelings about her brother Randall, and impressed with her determination to do what's right for her family - even though she's fairly certain they'll balk. Don't be surprised if your kids start peppering you with family history questions and suddenly itch to check out the branches of the ol' family tree.

For the Kids:
Magpie Gabbard and the Quest for the Buried Moon has magical birthday sparkles, a time-traveling wild boar, and a talking head that floats in a well. It has a prophesying kettle, a girl full of cussedness, and the moon herself - come to Earth. There's a family feud that goes back ages, wily Goblins ready to snatch the unwitting away, honey that'll whiten your teeth, and Green Water from a pond that'll cure whatever ails ya if ya drink it. It also has a sister who'll do whatever it takes to get her brother to where he needs to go - even when it involves those pernicious Sizemores - because she loves him that much. (Yes, really. And I bet you'd do the same, if push came to shove.) Don't believe me? Go find the book. Read it. You'll see.

Wrapping Up:
Magpie Gabbard and the Quest for the Buried Moon is full of the most surprising things. Supernatural things, and down-to-earth things, and heartstring-tugging things. And ain't that a story worth reading?

Title: Magpie Gabbard and the Quest for the Buried Moon
Author: Sally M. Keehn
Jacket Art: Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher
Pages: 208
Reading Level: Grades 5-8
Publisher and Date: Philomel Books, March 1, 2007
Edition: Library copy, 1st Edition, hardcover
Language: English
Published In: United States
Price: $16.99
ISBN-10: 0-399-2434-0-2
ISBN-13: 978-0-399-24340-0 


  1. Why have I never heard of this book?? Great review, Kim. Magic birthday sparkles? A talking head in a well? I'm in!

  2. Let me know how you like it, Joanne. It was fun to read!


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