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Rocking Chair Moon
In poetic vignettes narrated from alternating (mostly) points of view, Rocking-Chair Moon chronicles the young lives of Ben and Carly Duran, brother and sister, close in age and rapport. The story is a record of their experiences and thoughts from early elementary school through high school and beyond—high points, low points, and places in between, lighthearted and dramatic, hugely significant or simply noteworthy. The events that happen in their lives, and their reactions to those happenings, are personal but also universal, enabling readers to connect solidly with the characters and their stories.
Plot/Idea: 9 out of 10
Originality: 9 out of 10
Prose: 9 out of 10
Character/Execution: 10 out of 10
Overall: 9.25 out of 10

Assessment:

Plot: A novel-in-verse in the tradition of Out of the Dust and Brown Girl Dreaming, David Patneaude's Rocking Chair Moon is a dual first-person narrative that chronicles the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual maturation of siblings Carly and Ben. As the family shares its everyday joys and is broken by catastrophic loss, only to rebuild and become even more close-knit, Carly and Ben grow in stature and strength as they navigate the perils and complexities of a millennial childhood.

Prose/Style: Beautifully and thoughtfully written, with nods to the poetic canon that gently acknowledge but never belabor Patneaude's influences, the form of each vignette mirrors the content, with Ben, the terse brother, being the more apt to express himself in epigrammatic haiku, and sister Carly, who loves language in general and is more likely to flow into stream of consciousness description and reflection. While the early poems seem a trifle too sophisticated in style and vocabulary to be entirely convincing as being voiced by two young children, as the siblings age into their eloquence, the book becomes ever more compelling.

Originality: A work of fiction written in verse is far from a novelty, but this is an excellent example of what can be done with a narrative arc, sustained thematic content and genuinely engaging character development within the poetic from in a skillful pair of hands. As the family grows, breaks, heals, is broken again, and rises anew, Carly and Ben become stronger and mature into survivors who display consistent grace of heart and integrity of spirit before the reader's eyes

Character Development/Execution: The deep bond Carly and Ben share is compelling, authentic, and utterly convincing. Beauty and quiet truth reside in these pages.

Date Submitted: August 30, 2021

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