Jul 28, 2009

a cool moonlight by Angela Johnson

a cool moonlight by Angela Johnson

two days after i was born, mama put me out in the backyard in the shade so i could get some air. by the time she looked over at me again, the august sun had crept up and burn my leg.
mama says i screamed real bad.
and because a pediatrician at the hospital had seen xeroderma pigmentosum when he was in medical school, he had the test run on me. then everybody found out i had a defect that made me sensitive to the light. the sun. uv rays. some street lights.
Eight-year-old Lila doesn’t remember the sun. Because of her rare allergy to sunlight, she only ever leaves the house after dark. Almost every night, she plays in the garden with Elizabeth and Alyssa, two girls in tutus and fairy wings. Lila believes that, with her friends’ help, she will be able to become both a sun goddess and a moon girl before she turns nine. But her birthday is two months away, and a lot can change in that time.

I read the lovely a cool moonlight in a single sitting – not only because it’s short, but because it’s the kind of book you don’t want to put down. Lila is a fabulous narrator, and Angela Johnson did a fantastic job giving us the limited perspective of an eight-year-old but still allowing us to read between the lines and guess at what she’s not telling us.

a cool moonlight reminded me a little of Ben Rice’s Pobby and Dingan. It’s not just the theme of imaginary friends (this is not a spoiler, as readers can tell right away that this is what Alyssa and Elizabeth are), but also the bittersweet and gentle tone; the fact that both are such lovely books about childhood and loss and growing up.

My favourite thing about a cool moonlight was seeing Lila grow more and more comfortable in her own skin. By the end of the book, she has stopped daydreaming of becoming “normal” and is beginning to learn to accept herself. She knows she'll never play in the sunlight, but she realizes there's still a lot to enjoy about her life. I also loved Lila’s family. There were so many moments of quiet tenderness in this book.

It took me under two hours to read a cool moonlight, but it’s been a few days now and I’m still thinking about it. If you’re looking for a quick but rewarding read, this is the book for you.

Bits I liked:
i like my neighborhood when it’s dark. the secrets in people come out. but i’d never tell on them. that would be cheating.

i’ve always wanted to be nine. always wanted to be nine and a superhero. always wanted too be nine, a superhero, and able to go out in the sun in a swimsuit on a bright hot day.
now I am nine.
i might be a superhero.
but being out in the sun doesn’t really matter anymore ‘cause it’s here and i’m here. that’s just how it is.
Other Opinions:
Out of the Blue
Color Online

(Did I miss yours?)


  1. It is scary to think that for some children this is a reality. I remember reading about a child with the same condition in the only Jodi Picoult one I read. Second Glance is basically a ghost story, which is why I picked it, but the boy in it suffered with this condition and would purposefully go out in the sun and burn, just because he was fed up of being different. A cool moonlight is definitely a book I would read.

  2. This sounds beautiful. I can't imagine living with that disease.

  3. Oh my, your review alone left me tears in my eyes. Not sad tears. Just those sweet, tender kind. It sounds like such a beautiful little book. I soooo love that last passage.

  4. I have to be impressed with anyone who can write a serious book in the voice of a child. Books about childhood are so hard to read, because the make you (or me) feel estranged. When you're little, you feel as if you are a member of the world, by default. Right around eight is when you become advanced enough to wise up, and realize that not everyone fits in.

  5. Sounds lovely. I'm on the hunt for it!

  6. Oh geez, just requested it on PBS. I'm gonna have to stop reading your blog if you don't quit adding to my pile! =)

  7. Ana,

    I felt the same way did after reading this. I love Lila's family. How many families do we see this close anymore?

    Love your review. I'm going to add it to Mr. Linky because I don't want it buried. I assume you meant you don't want to be in the drawing.

    Besides the writing here, what I love about Johnson's body of work is that she presents images of African American families as whole and functioning units. In the current climate of dysfunctional families, here we get loving and positive images.

  8. I just can't imagine a life without being able to go out in the sun. It would be so hard to accept that. This sounds like a wonderful book. I hadn't heard of it before so thanks for the review!

  9. I love those books that just linger in the brain for days after reading them! And I loved Pobby and Dingan, so that comparison works for me ;) What a neat concept for a book! And I love that cover too..it's gorgeous. Yep...heading onto the list...

  10. Oooh, this one sounds so good.

  11. This does sound like it would really make you think about the things we take for granted - like being able to go out in the sun.

  12. Oh, this sounds so good!! I'll have to get my hands on it.

    "It took me under two hours to read a cool moonlight, but it’s been a few days now and I’m still thinking about it. If you’re looking for a quick but rewarding read, this is the book for you."

    That's about the highest recommendation you can give :)

  13. Oh no--no capitalization in the book? Just as people think McCarthy's lack of grammar is obnoxious (although I don't), this would take some getting used to. Oh wait--you've never read a McCarthy book, huh? :P You really need to read The Road.

    Part of me is a little sad that Lila lets go of her daydreaming and friends by the end of the book--I guess I'm always hopeful that a little bit of our childhood will always be with us. Anyway, it does sound like a really touching book.

  14. Sounds like both a touching and a powerful book to me! Another book onto my wishlist! :P

  15. Angela Johnson is a wonderful author. This book sounds pretty amazing!

  16. This sounds wonderful! I despair at my evergrowing list of books to buy... in our reservation counter at the bookstore, there's a whole shelf of my books!

  17. Ooooohhh. I want! Souns like a good book.

    Any sign of Bradley yet?

  18. That sounds like another one to go on the list (grrr.) I read Angela Johnson's book of poems called The Other Side a few years ago. It's kind of like a photo album/poetry book/memoir. I think you'd love it!

  19. This looks really good and fascinating. I love the cover, too. :)

  20. I can't imagine how sad it would be to be sentitive to light. But this book sounds so lovely. Love the cover!!!

  21. Scrap Girl: Wow, that sounds so sad...poor boy :(

    Amanda: I can't either, but I guess it's one of those things - when you find yourself in that position you learn to make the best of it.

    Debi: I loved it too. You'd enjoy this for sure!

    Jason: I'm impressed too...it must be so difficult. Funnily enough I don't actually feel estranged myself. I wonder if not having children of my own has something to do with it. Though I'm more than old enough not to, I put myself in the place of the child in a story more easily than in the place of the adult. What this says about me I can only guess :P

    Mariel: I hope you find it!

    Kristina: Nooooo! Don't go :P

    Susan: I know - and I loved how their closeness felt so natural. It never seemed force. I didn't add it to Mr Linky because I'm not in the US (I totally understand you limiting the giveaway, btw, as international shipping really is costly), but I guess you can always draw again if one of the reviews turns out to be mine. Thanks again for recommending this book!

    Dar: It must be, but I loved how well Lila was able to adjust. I mean, she doesn't make it sound easy, but in the end we don't pity her either.

    Chris: It really is. Like I told Debi, I can't imagine you not liking this! But we almost always like the same books, so no great surprise there :P

    Bart: You know, it also reminded me of Almond a little bit.

    Bermudaonion: It really did.

  22. Heather: I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

    Trish: To be honest I only registered the lack of capitalization properly when I was typing those quotes. It really didn't bother me at all. I've read McCarthy - The Road was one of my favourites of 2008 :) And I guess I didn't explain it properly - she doesn't really give up daydreaming. She just stops daydreaming of becoming "normal" and begins to accept who she is.

    Melody and Court, I hope you both enjoy it!

    Staci: I plan on reading The First Part Last next - really looking forward to that one!

    Marineko: At least you'll never run out of stuff to read :P

    Kailana: Yep! it's here! I'll e-mail you soon so we can schedule things.

    Darla: See, you take revenge by making my add something to my list :P

    Daphne: Yes, it's very beautiful!

    Violet: Like Kathy was saying, it's one of those things we just take for granted, so it's hard to imagine living without it.

  23. I caught a news clip the other night where Yankees stadium did a big all night camp for kids with these sun issues and I thought it was a wonderful thing to do. They interviewed a couple who orgazine events like that because of their own children who have to live their lives while others sleep. I cannot imagine just how hard that would be to adapt to and yet I love the fact that people make an effort to make their lives as 'normal' as they can possibly be.

  24. Huh--why was I thinking you hadn't read any McCarthy. Silly me. See--I knew you'd really like The Road. :)

  25. Carl: I love it too! Thanks for sharing that story - it made me smile :)

    Trish: You know, I think I asked you for recommendations once, so that was probably why. But it was for what to read after The Road, not what to start with :P

  26. hmmm. I think my favorite McCarthy book is The Crossing, which actually the second in his Border Trilogy. All the Pretty Horses is the first. Good news is they are completely stand-alone novels so you don't have to read ATPH first. All his books are so bleak that I have a difficult time recommending them to others. I read The Crossing for a graduate course in postmodern studies and was one of the few in the class who really loved it. The only other I've read besides those two and The Road is No Country for Old Men. Still a good book but different. I'd really like to read Blood Meridian but haven't found a chance yet.

  27. I read Pobby and Dingan a few years ago and loved it, so I like the fact that the two have similarities. It sounds like something that my daughter would enjoy as well, so I will be putting it on my wish list. You read some excellent books!

  28. This sounds so sweet. Can you imagine being allergic to the sun? Will definitely be adding this one to my list!

  29. I love the cover! and the quotes you give really make me want to read the book. that didn't take long - read a post by you, now want to read the book too!!!

    Missed you a lot!

  30. This is another book I'd love to read! Another good review, Ana.

  31. Trish: Good to hear they're stand-alones! I'll keep The Crossing in mind. And hey, it doesn't get bleaker than The Road and I still loved it :P

    Zibilee: I hope you and your daughter enjoy it :)

    Iliana: It's hard to imagine, isn't it? This is why I love books: I got to live inside Lila's heard for a little while, and now imagining it is a little easier.

    Susan: Aww...I missed you too!

    Alice, thank you!

  32. this does sound very good. what a sad thing to be allergic to sunlight.
    the cover on this book is so pretty.

  33. I really like the premise of this one. I will have to look out for a copy. Out of interest where do you get all these great books? The library? Amazon? Do you mostly go by recommendations to find them?

  34. You know what is funny? I read this book when I was eight. I didn't understand that those girls weren't real, or about anything else in the book. I didn't pick apart the hidden messages. But you know what? It was still my favorite book. I can't wait to read it again.


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