Unhooking The Moon by Gregory Hughes
Meet the Rat: A dancing, football-playing gangster-baiting ten-year-old. When she foresaw her father’s death, she picked up her football and decided to head for New York. Meet her older brother Bob: Protector of the Rat, but more often her follower, he is determined to find their uncle in America and discover a new life for them both. On their adventures across the flatlands of Winnipeg and through the exciting streets of New York, Bob and the Rat make friends with a hilarious con man and a famous rap star, and escape numerous dangers. But is their Uncle a rich business man, or is the word on the street, that he something more sinister, true? And will they ever find him? Hughes has created a funny, warm, unique world that lives and breathes.
This is Gregory Hughes’ first novel, and you may have seen it in the news recently that Unhooking The Moon won the Booktrust Teenage Prize 2010, beating best-selling authors such as Marcus Sedgwick, Charlie Higson, Zizou Corder, Jason Wallace and Sarah Manning.
This is by far one of the best children’s books I have ever read. It grabbed me right from the start with it’s quirky characters and edgy writing style. It immediately put me in mind of Marcus Zusak’s I Am The Messenger, which again is one of my favourite all-time books. I love the character known mostly as ‘The Rat’. She is definitely a unique, funny but instantly lovable character who has the ability to forsee things before they happen. The relationship between her and her brother Bob is wonderful to watch. They both look out for each other, but Bob is more the ‘sensible’ type who has to watch out for the Rat who constantly gets herself into some awkward and terrifying situations throughout the novel.
The characters they meet on their adventure in New York definitely jump out of the page, they range from gangster rappers, to drug dealers, to hustlers. Each one has their own story to tell and each one will touch you in some way. It was interesting to see these stereotypically bad characters depicted as good, helpful people who somehow get sucked into the Rat and Bob’s adventure. I couldn’t even tell you which character was my favourite because they each brought something new to the story.
The ending was very unexpected and I have to commend Hughes for not giving his story the typical happy-ending I was expecting. It left me feeling sad, happy, angry but it also made me think about the characters for a long time after I read the final page. I know I will miss being on that journey with them.
It is interesting to see how much Hughes’ own life has influenced his writing. I found this passage on the Booktrust website:
Gregory Hughes is a first-time writer who had an eventful childhood himself. Expelled from a Liverpool Jesuit school as a young teenager, he found himself in a home for boys and then in a detention centre. He has continued to lead a colourful life, working as a removal man, sleeping rough in Times Square, taking his GCSEs in his 20s and now working as a deep-sea diver, which he says inspires his creativity. The novel was written whilst Gregory was living in Iceland and sleeping on the floor of a room so small that he could touch both ends of the room while standing in the middle.
I hope this means Gregory Hughes has a lot more stories to tell!
What I must say about this novel is that I was very surprised that is a categorised as suitable for the ages of 9-12. The word ‘peadophile’ is mentioned an awful lot throughout this novel, and although nothing graphic is ever described and there is nothing truly horrific in it the word alone may have some parents questioning what their kids are reading. It really is a fantastic, funny, heart-wrenching adventure story and I do honestly think it’s one every kid should read, but maybe it would be fair to say that it should be for the ages 11+ at least.
Unhooking The Moon is a refreshing read for young adults, and I believe that kids will get a lot out of it. I know I will definitely be recommending it at work!
- Gregory Hughes wins Booktrust teenage prize for Unhooking the Moon (guardian.co.uk)