Conventional wisdom among children's writers is that the protagonist of your novel should be older than your intended reader's age. That's at least one rule that Alabama Moon successfully breaks. Right from the beginning of this poignant, survival/adventure story, 10-year-old Moon faces the death of his father from whom he has learned everything he "needs" to survive in the Alabama forest. Moon discovers that although his Vietnam veteran father may have chosen to live alone with his wife and son, a life of loneliness is not what he wants to choose for himself.
This is author Watt Key's first novel and he generously uses memories from his own childhood growing up in the swamps and forests of Alabama. The interview on his website is eye-opening for both young adult readers as well as for writers who want to learn how to mine their own life experiences. With the strong survival theme, this book will appeal to middle school boys, but I believe girls (who often read books with boys as the main character) will also appreciate it.
I believe Key did an excellent job of weaving the themes of death, friendship, and family, into this well-written book. Parents should be advised that there is rough language—which is true to the character of a child raised in a forest by an angry father—but some readers may find that objectionable. (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2006)