Laugh With the Moon, by Shana Burg – grief and laughter, new friends in Africa (book review)

book cover of Laugh With the Moon by Shana Burg published by Delacorte

Roosters wandering through the school.
Sharing one pencil between ten students.
Daily anti-malaria pills too pricy for most families

On this World Wednesday, United Nations Day, travel us to Malawi, as a grieving American teen and her dad try to help others, despite their own pain.

Clare does indeed  feel like “a marshmallow that fell into a bag of dark chocolate” (p. 5) as she arrives with her doctor-dad in the “warm heart of Africa” which has the fewest doctors per capita of any country in the world.

Missing her late mother, her friends, the conveniences of modern life, Clare learns to ignore enormous centipedes, to find alternative ways to get around shortages, and to appreciate her newfound friends, especially Memory, who has lost both her mother and her father.

This summer 2012 new book takes you to a far-off land with just a short trip to your local library or independent bookstore. Could you Laugh With the Moon,  instead of crying alone, if you were in Clare’s place?

Book info: Laugh With the Moon / Shana Burg. Delacorte Press, 2012, paperback 2013.  [author’s website] [publisher site] [book trailer] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher. (One of 5,000 books recommended on

My Book Talk:  Malawi is not Massachusetts – Clare can’t believe that her father has uprooted her from junior high school to come to Africa for a season. After her mother died, they were both so sad for so long… he thinks the change of scenery will do them good, but Clare isn’t sure she can adjust to any more changes!

Mosquito netting around her narrow bed, no cellphone service out here in the bush, riding a borrowed bicycle down a bumpy dirt road to Mzanga Full Primary School where she’s the only white student, wearing a hand-me-down school uniform, but is fully welcomed with smiles…

Soon Clare becomes accustomed to helping pack up her classroom’s books to take to the school’s only lockable room, to placing cans beneath its worst leaks during the rains, to understanding almost enough about her classmates to keep from embarrassing herself too much.

Her sketchbook fills with drawings of her friends who have chosen English names like Innocent and Memory, of jungle animals, and of Fred the hen who arrived as a mystery gift on their doorstep. She finally can see her mother’s face and hear her voice in her dreams. And her father the doctor tries to help all the children who flood into the free hospital, day and night.

An emergency during an outing to Lake Malombe leaves the school friends stranded, with time running out. How can they get everyone to safety? Why can’t an ambulance get there? Why is everything so difficult in Malawi? How will Clare ever feel whole in her heart without her mother’s gentle love?

From teaching tools made from termite-mound mud to the charming style of English spoken in Mkumba, readers will be delighted to explore Clare’s new world as she learns to Laugh With the Moon and embrace life after loss. 

What do you think?

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