Author: Paul Fleischman
Illustrator: Kathy Jacobi
On the eve of his twelfth birthday, Aaron is given the greatest responsibility of his life to date: he is left to stay at home overnight while his mother takes the wool she’s dyed and woven to market. It was supposed to be a quick overnight trip, but a snowstorm blows in, blocking the roads. Aaron doesn’t know when his mother’s coming home, or if she’s stuck on the roadside or been attacked by highwaymen. All in a worry, the mute boy packs his bags and goes out to find his mother. Troubles pile on troubles, however, as he finds himself lost in the woods, unable to ask for help among a society where only the educated can read and write. Even worse, when he arrives at the Half-a-Moon inn, hoping to get help, he finds himself instead captured and forced to labor for the evil innkeeper. Will he ever find his mother?
Paul Fleischman is truly a gifted author, as is shown clearly in this little gem, The Half-a-Moon Inn. This small story is a delightful adventure, packing a much greater punch than you would expect from a tale less than a hundred pages long. Fleischman builds the atmosphere brilliantly, crafting a story that’s engaging and original, yet not too scary for younger readers (I’d say, around 8+). The setting is a unique blend of historical fiction and tall tale, evoking a feeling of England in the late-medieval era, yet drawing in fantastic elements such as seeing people’s dreams playing across their eyes when they sleep. I know it sounds kind of odd, but it works. I would definitely recommend The Half-a-Moon Inn to basically all readers early elementary and up; it’s exciting and atmospheric, with just the right touch of scariness.