Alabama Moon focuses on a ten-year-old boy named Moon Blake. Moon's pap dies at the beginning of the novel and Moon's life is forever changed. Moon has lived in the forest for nearly all of his life. It is the only home he knows. His mother passed away when Moon was just two. The tale that unfolds is an adventure story of sorts. Key writes Moon as a boy who has trouble dealing not with just authority, but almost any adult he encounters. Moon learned from his Pap not to trust the government because they take but do not give. Moon's father is a disgruntled war veteran of Vietnam and, much like many others of his time, has a hard time readjusting to life outside of the war. He moves them to the forest to live off of the land and Moon rarely interacts with the outside world. He is, albeit unintentionally, maladjusted to societal norms.
After Moon's pap dies, Moon curls up and cries. He has no one. He knows of only one other person in the world, a store owner several miles away on the outskirts of the woods, Mr. Abroscotto. The purpose of this theme in the text is to show that although Moon is lonely, better times are ahead. Moon thinks he can make it to Alaska and lives with others but soon realizes that this task requires more than he has. After Moon escapes the boys home he is sent to with Kit and Hal, he realizes that company of friends is better than roughing it alone. The theme functions to show the young adult reader that although you may feel lonely at times, there will always be an opportunity to meet new people, and although they may not be like you or be able to relate to you, we all have one thing in common: we need people around us to make not only ourselves feel better, but to help them feel better as well. It reinforces the values of friendship under any circumstances, and it is the thing Moon needs most at this point in his life, beyond direction or empathy.
''Just before Pap died, he told me that I'd be fine as long as I never depended on anybody but myself.'' By the end of the first chapter, we're rooting for Moon to break free of his lonely existence. (New York Times)
Moon must deal with Police Officer Sanders as he attempts to escape the confines of civil society. Sanders is a tough, ruthless policeman who seems to stop at nothing to find Moon and the two boys. He conjures up a story that Moon shot at him, stole his pistol, ate his bloodhounds and left him for dead. Although authority isn't treated with much respect in the text, beyond the judge and Officer Pete who are respected and somewhat empathetic, Moon's relationship with Sanders is one that many young adults deal with. Moon never tells a lie, however, and never commits senseless acts of violence to rebuke the authoritarian figure in Sanders. We must respect authority, but also recognize the savagery in corruption.
Moon's father dies at the beginning of the novel and he has no one after that. Moon does not deal with the death well, but recognizes that he must bury his father. It is tough for a young boy to do this and shows Moon's resilience. Death and survivalist novels seemingly go hand-in-hand and although the death comes at the beginning of the novel, its impact on Moon is not especially evident as the novel progresses. It serves as a catalyst for Moon changing his thoughts and ideals, even as he sticks up for his father's ostensibly impractical ideologies. We learn that we must treat the dead with respect, but also reflect on their lives with introspect. Moon's father's death will serve as a learning tool for Moon when he decides that, in opposition to Moon's father who refused medicine, he must save Kit by searching for medicine, which also reinforces the strong theme of friendship that develops through the novel with Moon and Kit and Moon and Hal.
"Our windows were narrow slits for shooting through and the trees that you saw out of these windows were pocked and chipped from years of Pap and me practicing a stage-one defense," says Moon. He is very about his wits and understands his surrounding. Survival, for him, comes easy out in the woods. This theme plays a strange role in the text. Moon has the most difficult time surviving inside the normal cultural and societal bounds and rules. It is not survival in nature that worries him. In fact, he seeks out places in nature to stay and throughout much of the novel talks about his will to go to Alaska to live with people like him and his pap. Kids reading this might find it interesting that a boy of ten years can survive in the rough without much worry. But it also can relate to many kids. It can relate to young readers who find it difficult to survive in an environment with which they are unfamiliar. I certainly can relate. When I was six, my mother uprooted me and moved from Chicago to Florida. I lost what friends I had and everything I knew. I didn't want to stay. I relented and pleaded with her to move us back. Although this isn't the same literally, theoretically it makes sense. This theme applies to all the young adults out there who are forced into a situation of unfamiliarity and must survive regardless of the circumstances. Eventually Moon comes around and realizes that, although he is not fluent in civilization, it is the best thing for him in his condition. As a reader, I found myself often rooting for Moon to make it on his own but I recognize the impracticality of this, as does Moon. Eventually he moves in with this aunt and uncle in Mobile, Alabama and cherishes the opportunity to explore something different. He knows he can survive these elements. Most importantly, when Kit is sick and all of the medicine Moon tries does not work, he is forced to reject his father's mentality that all medicine can be had from nature. In order to survive, he must reject the survivalist ideals his father has taught him about his entire life, a great twist of ironic fate.
The adult mentor comes late in the novel. Mr. Wellington, the owner of the land where Moon's old 'home' is, comes to the rescue of Moon. He is understanding and sensible, and practical and empathetic. He is a reasonable man and when he sees Sanders walking moon on a dog leash, he comes to Moon's rescue. He recognizes that there is not pragmatic explanation for this and begins to understand Moon's situation. He guides Moon along near the end of the novel and finds Moon's remaining family in Mobile. If it weren't for him, Moon would be in a heap of trouble. This theme serves to show young adults that although it might seem like you can make it on your own, at such a young age you still need guidance and instruction to be able to survive, and Mr. Wellington provides Moon with just that.
Alabama Moon was turned into a major motion picture, but in addition to this has received many accolades. The awards it has received are as follows:
American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults; ABC E.B. White Read Aloud Award; Bank Street Best Children's Book of the Year; Book Sense Children's Pick; Parents' Choice Award Winner; VOYA Top Shelf Fiction for Middle School Readers; Alabama Children's Choice Book Award Master List; CA Silicon Valley Reads; California Young Reader Medal Master List; Illinois Rebecca Caudill Young Readers Choice Award Master List; Indiana Young Hoosier Award Master List; Kentucky Blue Grass Award Master List; Maine Student Book Award Master List; Maryland Black-Eyed Susan Award Maser List; Minnesota Maud Hart Lovelace Book Award Master List; Missouri Truman Readers Award Master List; Tennessee Intermediate Volunteer State Book Award Master List; Vermont Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award Master List
A review of the film adaptation can be had here:
Key, W. (2006). Alabama Moon . New York: Farrar Straus Giroux.
Alabama Moon | Watt Key | Macmillan . (n.d.). Macmillan - Distinguished & Award Winning Global Publisher in 41 countries. Retrieved April 17, 2011, from http://us.macmillan.com/Book.aspx?isbn=9780374301842
Stone, T. L. (n.d.). Children's Books/Young Adult - NYTimes.com. The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. Retrieved April 14, 2011, from http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F02E1D9153FF932A25751C0A