Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Review - Margot and the Moon Landing

Margot and the Moon Landing
by A. C. Fitzpatrick
illustrated by Erika Medina
Date: 2020
Publisher: Annick Press
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 40
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

A universal story about speaking, listening and being heard.

Margot loves space. Astronauts, the stars, and especially the moon landing. So she can’t understand why all of her attempts to communicate her passion fall on disinterested ears. Her mom is patient but distracted; her classmates would rather play kickball; and her teacher just wants her to focus and pay attention in class. Even so, Margot wishes she never had to talk about anything but space ever again.

When she wakes up one morning and discovers she can only recite Neil Armstrong’s famous speech from the moon landing, Margot realizes she has an even bigger problem. How can Margot get everyone to pay attention and—more importantly—to hear what she’s really trying to say? This powerful picture book debut plays with themes of listening and communication to highlight the importance of a space of one’s own, no matter what your passion may be.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I'm actually a little bit surprised by this one... and not in a good way. While the underlying ideas about listening are fine, there's another way this book can be interpreted, and it leads to some very uncomfortable messages.

Margot is obsessed with space. All she wants to do is read about it. When she's not reading about it, she's talking about it... even if it's not an appropriate time or place. One day, she wakes up and the only things that come out of her mouth are parts of Neil Armstrong's famous speech. Nobody thinks anything's wrong, because she's always talked about space before, anyway. She goes home, frustrated, and writes out all her worries on her wall (even though she knows that's wrong). Her mother reads what she's written, her normal words come back, and her mother encourages her love of spacey things.

What I'm having a problem with here is that Margot could be interpreted as being on the autism spectrum. She has a fixed, narrow interest. She doesn't want to do anything else; when the other kids try to engage her in other activities, she just blurts space facts at them. She doesn't seem to be able to read other people or gauge situations, and tries to share her space facts at inappropriate times (like during a kickball game, or when she's called on in math class). She's aware she's different, but she doesn't seem to know what to do about it. Now, it wouldn't be a problem if Margot were autistic... except for the fact that the story seems to punish her for it. Through some supernatural justice system, she's condemned to repeat Neil Armstrong's speech as punishment for... what? Being obsessed with space? This punishment doesn't really serve to teach her anything (she's still just as obsessed with space at the end of the book, and presumably annoying her classmates with random facts). I almost got the feeling that there's supposed to be a "boy who cried wolf" thing going on here. But that's rather unfair, given the way the character is set up. In essence, Margot ends up being punished for her autism.

The pictures are fine, but I just don't feel right about the story. If it had taken a slightly different approach and perhaps addressed the elephant in the room, it might have worked better. Instead, we're left with a story about a girl who's punished for something that's out of her control. (Had she shown an ability to rein in her perseveration, I might have viewed her character a little differently. But since she seemed incapable of doing so, it felt unfair for her to be punished for it.)

I'm afraid I can't recommend this one.

Thank you to NetGalley and Annick Press for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 2/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 1/5

Overall: 2.17 out of 5

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