Thursday, August 09, 2012

Margaret and the Moth Tree by Brit and Kari Trogen


For the majority of Margaret Grey’s existence (all eleven years) she has been an orphan taught to be quiet and to cause the least amount of trouble possible. When Margaret’s parents died, her only living relatives were the quiet, but-not-big-on-hygiene, bachelor Uncle Amos, and the well-mannered-to-a-fault Great Aunt Linda. Margaret lived with one, then the other, but as years went by, they, too, die and leave her alone. She gets sent to the Hopeton Orphanage where she hopes against hope that she will finally find a warm and kindly place to call home. Instead she comes face-to-face with terror and tyranny in the form of Miss Switch. Miss Switch seems to have leapt from the pages of a Roald Dalh story and can go head-to-head with the best of evil villains. In fact, she is one of the worst kinds of villains –she appears kind and motherly in front of the public, but once public eyes look away, she switches and turns nasty and cruel. Even though she’s the matron of an orphanage, she hates kids, especially orphans (or dregs, as she calls them). I could go on about her awfulness, but you will soon see there is no end to her cruelties (she thinks being cruel is a kind of talent). Here are some examples of her cruelty: locking a child outside on a windowsill all night through a storm, ignoring her cries; gluing hands together; taping mouths shut; the list goes on and on. When Margaret tries to get help from the outside, she is punished severely, but it’s actually the punishment that empowers her and inspires her revolt. Her punishment? No one is allowed to speak to Margaret, and Margaret is not allowed to utter a word. As the days go by in silence and solitude, Margaret uncovers a kind of sixth sense: if she truly listens, she can hear the quietest of sounds, even a fluttering of wings. It is this talent that helps  her discover the moths (playful creatures that talk and play games all night). Her discovery of the moths and her friendship with them give Margaret the courage to overcome her fear and turn the switch on Miss Switch in a humiliating and hilarious climax. For those of you who like Roald Dahl’s Matilda, this is a story for you. You’ll be rooting for Margaret all the way to the end, just like you did for Matilda. Review by Lizzy Healy

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