November 14, 2012
Margaret and the Moth Tree
First sentence: "If this were a proper world, beautiful faces would belong to beautiful people."
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Margaret was not one of those Lucky People for whom Good Things happen. Rather, even though she was Good, bad luck seemed to follow her. First, her parents died, and no one wanted to take her in. Cousin Amos, finally did, but he never spoke, so Margaret lived in a House of Silence. Then he died, and Margaret was taken in by Great-Aunt Linda, who was Very Proper. Then, she died, and at ten years old, Margaret was left Alone.
She was given into the care of the Concerned Ladies Club, which delivered her to what seemed to be a Fairly Nice Orphanage, run by the Beautiful Miss Switch. Except -- as we are often reminded in this slim book -- Appearances Can Be Deceiving: Switch is much like her name. When adults are around, she is all kindness and caring concern. But as soon as they depart, her True Nature comes out: she is horrible. Worse than horrible: cruel.
Margaret suffers Innumerable Torments at the hands of Switch and her Pets (the good-looking orphans; the rest are Dregs), but to her surprise, she hears Voices. It turns out that the moths in the backyard tree can talk (and only Margaret can hear them), and they are more than willing to help her Get Rid of Switch Once and For All.
I know all the capital letters makes me sound a wee bit sarcastic, but honestly, I found this book to be sweet. It was just the right length for an 8-year-old to get a handle on, and the story was neither Too Scary, Too Dark, or Too Preachy. In fact, I found it to be Quite Sweet.
And sometimes, that's Just Right.
(Just for the record: because this is a Cybils nominee, I've been asked to make sure y'all know this is my opinion only, and not that of the panel.)