cover image Once in a Blue Moon

Once in a Blue Moon

Sharon G. Flake. Knopf, $17.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-59348-098-4

Twins deal with the fallout of their mother’s hospitalization in this emotionally raw verse novel by Flake (The Skin I’m In), set in Jim Crow–era North Carolina. After their mother nearly drowns, she’s sent to a Detroit hospital, leaving 11-year-old Black twins James Henry and Hattie Mae in the care of Gran and Uncle. Only James Henry knows what really happened the night she almost died, but his anxiety, fear, and guilt result in him feeling unable to speak to anyone except Gran and Hattie Mae, prompting suspicion and blame from Uncle and other townspeople. James Henry even refuses to leave the house, creating a rift between the siblings. He finds refuge in astronomy, only going outside to survey the moon. When Hattie Mae learns that a rare blue moon—or a wishing moon, according to Gran—will soon be visible, she’s sure that if they can get to the ocean, James Henry could wish away “his condition,” as he calls it. But she must persuade him to leave the house first. Brief but impactful poems narrated by perceptive James Henry deliver a poignantly compelling intergenerational story that underlines themes of community and family, forgiveness, grief, and healing. An author’s note concludes. Ages 8–12. Agent: Jennifer Lyons, Jennifer Lyons Literary. (July)