For those of you who've had no children, and/or have forgotten what it's like to be one, buckle up. This is not a slow walk of a book. Lily Claire's breathless detailed telling of just about everything that happens in her small world is told as if it was the most important thing in all the world, and you should know it.
Channell steps into Lily Claire's very person and stays there throughout the entire book. You, the reader, are her confidant as she learns of ordinary heroes and ponders the serendipity of life. You are privy to the secret world of a childhood whose freedom few have known and many today would envy.
Around the mysterious map to an imagined treasure she and Willie T find in and unlikely place, she weaves her history and that of all the diverse and sometimes eccentric folks and topics that inform her world. All are treated with that light childish and non-judgmental matter-of-factness that is so refreshing and true to the nature of the very young.
There is no heavy hand here about the "Ku Kluxes'" quick-to-lynch mentality or the superstitious nature of rural peoples that make the white lies Willie T and Lily Clare tell necessary. It's just plain necessary to protect the slow one and the black one in their midst, who are the most likely scapegoats for a crime that was no crime at all.
Channell has the sure cadence of a storyteller that is not only simple, sincere, and to the point, but it's part of the music. Is there music on Moonlight Ridge? Yes, but it is not just played, sung, or spoken aloud. It exists in the steady pace of the story, the people, the laughter, the polysyllabic names, and the language.
Having lived in the South off and on for many years, I didn't need the handy glossary at the back of the book to tell me that "boocoos" means "lots." Just goes to show, that being raised in the South is useful. This book was not just boocoos of fun to read, it is a gentle reminder of my own idyllic summers when every day held the promise of adventure, just like Lily Claire's.
Reviewed by Perle Champion & Published in First Draft Reviews Online, Alabama Writers' Forum, November 2010
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