Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Review: How High the Moon by Sandra Kring

It's small town America in the 1950's and Isabella, nicknamed Teaspoon, is in danger of failing fifth grade. She is imaginative and endearing, naive and plainly outspoken, outrageously talkative and fiercely loving. Living with Teddy, her mother's ex-boyfriend, the man her mother left her with five years ago when she went off to Hollywood to follow her dreams without regard to her daughter's welfare, Teaspoon may be a figure that should be pitied, but she's got charm and spunk to spare. Teddy turns out to be a good man and wonderful father to Teaspoon, even if he struggles to find the money to keep going, and Teaspoon wants to honor his goodness to her by becoming a better person herself, becoming a lady. Her only frame of reference for doing so though, is her elderly next door neighbor who has recently been landed with the care of her great-grandson, a seemingly insipid child just younger than Teaspoon, and the Taxi Cab Ladies, prostitutes whom Teaspoon has befriended (without quite knowing what they are, only understanding that they have a soft spot for her chatterbug self).

Rather grudgingly, Teaspoon allows her teacher to sign her up for a mentoring program called the Sunshine Sisters, which pairs young girls with older role models in the town. Teaspoon is claimed by town sweetheart Brenda Bloom after an unconventional meeting in the town's movie theater, a place beloved by Teaspoon and owned by Brenda's mother. The summer and their mentoring meetings are taken up by preparations for a revue to re-open the renovated and expanded theater. Teaspoon and Brenda are central to these plans and the events that happen in the lead up. Through it all Teaspoon doesn't stop wishing for her mom to come home and take up with Teddy again, she befriends Charlie, the neighbor's great-grandson whom she earlier disdained, and she dreams of her own big singing break.

Teaspoon narrates the entire novel so the reader is treated to her misunderstanding of people and events and charmed by her naivete even when certain things are perfectly clear to the adult reader. Certainly there are times that Teaspoon can be irritating and persistent and the other characters acknowledge this but it just makes her voice as a 10 year old girl that much more authentic. Sometimes she is world weary as only young who have seen more than their far share can be. And it is these variations in her character that make her such a delight to read. The storyline isn't precisely filled with surprises but that's easy to forgive in such a hopeful and endearing novel. I enjoyed every page of this adventure with Teaspoon and found myself smiling at the smallest of things as I read: her fierce crush on the older neighbor, learning to consider and honor Charlie's feelings about her mother's piano, her proprietary air toward Brenda when sparring with Brenda's mother, and her solution to the scuffed up new shoes she's supposed to wear for the revue. I could go on and on mentioning these little instances that create her character out of lovely whole cloth but I'll refrain. Instead, I will say that this is a wonderful book and I'm infinitely happy to have had the chance to read it.

My thanks to the author for providing me with a review copy of the novel.


  1. Teaspoon sounds like an interesting character.

  2. first, i love the nickname teaspoon--how cute! second, the book sounds full of quirky and entertaining characters--love books like with a strong supporting cast.

    i'm happy to hear that the narrator's voice sounds authentic. most books i read with young narrators struggle with this--either sounding too young or too sophisticated.

    sounds like a perfect beachy read for my summer vacation. :)

    -nat @book, line, and sinker

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. I read and reviewed Thank You for All Things on my blog -- I loved it! This novel sounds wonderful, too. I can't wait to read it. Thanks for the great review, Kristen.


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