Reviews for Cool Moonlight
Booklist Reviews 2003 October #1
/*Starred Review*/ Gr. 3-6. Lila has a rare medical condition: sunlight and certain kinds of artificial light can burn her skin and even blind her. Relatively isolated at home during the day, taken out by her loving parents and older sister at night, she has few friends but a rich fantasy life. Lila begins her narrative two months before her ninth birthday, which she sees as a pivotal time. Among those she believes are two imaginary playmates who appear at intervals and encourage Lila's notion that after collecting certain objects, she will magically be able to go out in daylight. Outdoors at her night birthday party, surrounded by family and friends, Lila experiences an epiphany and embraces being "the moon girl with fireflies." Though few readers suffer from Lila's illness, many will recognize the ragged path she consciously takes as she lets go of a fantasy that has sustained her and begins to leave childhood behind. The book's real magic resides in the spell cast by Johnson's spare, lucid, lyrical prose. Using simple words and vivid sensory images, she creates Lila's inner world as a place of quiet intensity--spun gossamer that proves immensely, unexpectedly strong. ((Reviewed October 1, 2003)) Copyright 2003 Booklist Reviews
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2004 Spring
Born with xeroderma pigmentosum, Lila is acutely sensitive to sunlight. She's homeschooled, and her only close friends, who have yet to be glimpsed by her family, always leave at dawn when Lila goes to bed. During the period of the novel--the weeks before her ninth birthday--Lila grows more thoughtful. More significantly, Lila is growing beyond her imaginary friends and into self-acceptance. Many deft touches make this spare portrait effective. Copyright 2004 Horn Book Guide Reviews.
Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2003 #5
Lila lives by night. Yearning for a sun she must never see, she snacks on "sun-kissed" raisins and treasures a "sun bag" of things she imagines can transport her to a sunlit beach. She's homeschooled, and her only close friends, who have yet to be glimpsed by her family, always leave at dawn when Lila goes to bed. Readers are well along in the story before an explanation is provided: born with xeroderma pigmentosum, Lila is acutely sensitive to sunlight. She's lucky in having loving, sensible parents who adjust their schedules to her nocturnal one and a sister twice her age who has social skills Lila is just beginning to value ("she almost says something, then decides not to...i can't do that. i can't stop what is coming out of my mouth. monk knows how to save her words"). During the period of the novel--the weeks before her ninth birthday--Lila grows more like thoughtful Monk: she has new insights about herself ("sometimes all i want...is for people to understand") and about others ("people are more easy with themselves in the dark"). Most significantly, Lila is growing beyond her imaginary friends and into self-acceptance: when she and her real friend David invent superheroes, Lila decides, "i don't have to be the sun goddess. i'm really okay being a moon girl." In a gentle typographic analog both to moonlight's limited spectrum and to Lila's curtailed life, Angela Johnson eschews capital letters--just one of the deft touches that make this spare portrait so effective. Copyright 2003 Horn Book Magazine Reviews
Kirkus Reviews 2003 September #1
The innovative Johnson has crafted an original story in both content and writing style. As eight-year-old Lila tells about being forced to avoid sunlight because of a chromosomal condition (xeroderma pigmentosum), the narrative is written entirely without capitalization, intimating that capital letters are missing like sunlight in Lila's life. Home-schooled, she lives for nighttime when she can be outside to play with her friends Elizabeth and Alyssa, dressed in their tutus and fairy wings, or to share mutant comic books with David from next door, or when her sister, Monk, drives her to the coffee shop. Even at night she wears a hat and she always wants raisins in cookies because they've been kissed by the sun. As Lila grapples with her cruel birthright and fills a secret sun bag with magic, the reader wonders if her fairy friends are real or imagined. Her dreams of becoming a superhero sun-goddess/moon-girl are uniquely realized at her ninth birthday party. Poignant, evocative, and as lingering as sunburn, Lila's story is one of courage, hope, and dreams. (Fiction. 8-11) Copyright Kirkus 2003 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2003 October #3
Johnson (I Dream of Trains, reviewed above) raises intriguing themes of the supernatural, the lure of nighttime and the heroine's yearning for the sun, but despite her lyrical language, fantasy and reality elements sit uneasily together in her latest novel. Narrator Lila is two months away from her ninth birthday; she also explains that she cannot go into the daylight, due to her xeroderma pigmentosum, which makes her sensitive to UV rays. Yet she longs for sunshine (she likes raisins because "i want all things that have been kissed by the sun"). Her "best friends" Elizabeth and Alyssa only visit Lila at night, and are helping her put together a "sun bag" (the purpose of which is never fully explained). Lila also has a friend in her neighbor: "david and me have been friendly since way before elizabeth and alyssa and me." One day while Lila and David are with Lila's older sister, Lila spots Elizabeth and Alyssa-but David can't see them ("she thinks she sees alyssa and elizabeth," David tells Lila's sister). Johnson plants seeds as to the elusive girls' identities: Alyssa "never answers" Lila's questions directly; later she asks them, "are you fairies?"; "maybe," they reply. The night before her birthday, Lila meets Jackie, who is visible to David, too, and Lila never sees Elizabeth and Alyssa again. Their abrupt departure leaves lingering questions (Does turning nine mean that there's no place for imaginary friends?) that detract from the finale: Lila's mystical nighttime birthday party. Ages 8-12. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2005 May #3
According to PW, "In lyrical language, the author raises intriguing themes of the supernatural, the lure of nighttime and the heroine's yearning for the sun." Ages 8-up. (Apr.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal Reviews 2003 September
Gr 5-7-"i don't remember the sun. i don't remember the sun or how my sister, monk, says it warms you up-." So begins Lila's unusual, gentle, almost ethereal narration. She has lived in a reverse world for all of her almost nine years, unable to go out in daylight because of a condition called xeroderma pigmentosum, a "defect that made me sensitive to light. the sun. uv rays. some streetlights." Lila goes to a coffee shop called the Fallen Angel with Monk, 18, in her jalopy and has a nighttime friendship with two girls only she sees. The mysterious, perhaps otherworldly Alyssa and Elizabeth recede as Lila celebrates her ninth birthday in a poignant scene in her backyard. Fireflies gently envelop her, a moment shared and enjoyed by her family and neighbors. Lila gradually accepts that being a "moon girl" is just as good as being a "sun goddess." Recognizing that she is different, that her light is softer than the sun, bolsters Lila's inner strength and ultimate self-acceptance. The writing is lyrical and fluid, and uses no capitalization, but captures a child's feelings. "i feel like i've been eight for practically a hundred years-. if i stay eight any longer, I will have gray hair when I turn nine-." This small, poetic book requires a special reader, but those who meet Lila are likely to remember her.-Maria B. Salvadore, formerly at District of Columbia Public Library Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
VOYA Reviews 2003 October
Once in a while a book of prose appears that reads as pure poetry. Such is the case with Johnson's newest novel. Fiercely quiet in its language, this powerful story touches the reader in unexpected ways. It is not the most unusual allergy afflicting the main character Lila that intrigues the audience, so much as it is how Lila uses her imagination to make peace with her condition. In a way that perhaps only the innocent are, Lila comes to a profound and complete acceptance of the situation over which she has no control. Young people and adults alike will be encouraged by the particulars of Lila's story, detailing the enormous harm with which sunlight threatens her. Especially important is how the adults around Lila allow her to grow and come to terms with the dangerous infirmity that would steal her childhood. Although many stories are about love, this one is about the most important love of all-love of self-and for young people, there can be no more important lesson. On the surface, Lila's story measures simple as a song, but straining beneath the unpretentious lyrics, a competing and memorable ensemble of what it means to shine with life reverberates. Courage, hope, and friendship are all found in this little gem of a novel. No library should be without it.-Elaine J. O'Quinn. 5Q 4P M Copyright 2003 Voya Reviews