Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton
Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton, published 2015 (YA)
Mini-Me Bookworm review: Full Cicada Moon tells the heartwarming story of a young girl named Mimi, new to Vermont. She looks different from everyone else, and struggles to define herself as who she is, and not what. I think that anyone who has ever felt like they don’t belong will enjoy this book. I liked it because I know that if Mimi, even with half of the school prejudiced against her, can stick to her dreams, then I can, too.
I’ll admit it. Sometimes it takes me a looong time to finish reading a book these days, especially if it’s a real book and not an e-book. Sometimes (lots of times) I don’t even finish the book if I forget it somewhere or if it’s due back at the library. Or if I already skipped ahead to a spot toward the end because I have a feeling of what’s going to happen and I don’t want said event to happen. Full Cicada Moon was the opposite. Though it sat on my nightstand for a while (I’m good at accruing late library dues and renewing a LOT), once I picked it up, I couldn’t put it down.
Written beautifully in free verse, Full Cicada Moon chronicles 12 year old Mimi’s experience moving from Berkeley, California to Vermont in the late 1960s. It’s hard enough that she’s moving at such a tender, awkward age but she’s also a girl who dreams of being an astronaut at a time when girls weren’t encouraged to study science. Top that up with the fact that Mimi is also Japanese and African-American and you can imagine that she has a hard time being accepted.
What I love about Marilyn Hilton’s writing is that I’m fully immersed in the mind of Mimi. I don’t question her character or use of free verse, I just followed her along for the ride. While I grew up in a large suburban area, I went to a small Catholic school where the majority of the other kids were white. There was a sprinkling of Latinos, and there was a large Vietnamese family (yes, one of the girls became my best friend), and two Vietnamese kids who were adopted by a white family. And it was the 1980s. To say I felt awkward is an understatement, even moreso when I hit the early puberty ages of 10-13 and awareness hits you in the face. Now my kids (who are mixed white-Asian-American) are growing up in a similar area, but it’s a different time. They are also going to private school (not religious) and maybe 1/3 of the population is Asian-American. More than half of those kids are mixed like they are.
Why is this important? It’s not. My girls have friends of all different colors and religions (or lack thereof), just like my husband and I do. What I like is that their backgrounds don’t matter—they are judged for who they are and not by a stereotype. I understand that this may not be the case in all schools in our area, however I do enjoy the fact that their school embraces everyone’s differences and similarities, especially in light of what’s been going on this past week in Washington D.C. In fact, last year in kindergarten, the teachers had parents come in to talk about various cultures and traditions from around the world. So there were 8-9 Chinese/Chinese-American families who came in to talk about the Lunar New Year. And one of the moms even taught the kids a tea-picking dance.
Back to Full Cicada Moon, Marilyn Hilton wrote a beautiful coming-of-age novel that fully immerses us in Mimi’s world. And even if I hadn’t related somewhat to her hiding her bento box lunch in her locker, I still felt every bit the outsider that Mimi felt in her mostly white community. I love that Mimi pushes forth with her dreams of becoming an astronaut, even after (SPOILER ALERT) another kid ruins her chances of winning at the science fair. She pushes on, and what’s more, her parents are supportive. Hilton weaves Mimi’s cultural background seamlessly throughout this novel that not only chronicles Mimi’s experiences but also captures the era of the late 1960s well.
Rating: Buy it—I admit that it’s so beautifully written that I’d read it again and gain, but it was a library book so I returned it. Mini Me read through it several times. It’s a quick and beautiful read, and though I have not seen Hidden Figures yet, I’m sure if you love that film, you may love this as a ‘backstory’. A definite must-read book.
Ages: Mature 10 year old and up. Though a mature 9 year old could read it too. :D