I just finished Polly Horvath’s latest middle grades novel, Northward to the Moon, which was a sequel to her excellent My One Hundred Adventures. If you don’t know Horvath’s work, it’s most definitely worth checking out. She writes poetic stories about young people thrown into unusual situations, usually in small towns surrounded by quirky characters. In Northward to the Moon, Jane’s stepfather, Ned, is fired from his French teaching job in Saskatchewan for not speaking French. When he gets word that an old friend is dying, Jane, her mother, her depressed little sister and her rambunctious little brothers all set out on a wild goose chase that connects Ned with his long-lost family. Like My One Hundred Adventures, which focuses on Jane’s desire to figure out who her father is, Northward to the Moon is ostensibly about a mysterious pile of money and tracing where it came from. Another mystery, of why Ned’s mother moved the family to Fort McMurray when he was young, is also introduced. However, Horvath isn’t afraid to write a book with multiple loose ends. The real story is about adventures and travel and what makes people need to look for adventure in their lives.
While I’m still letting the ending sink in, I can say I loved this book and its beautifully crafted musings on life and people’s eccentricities. The sense of place that Horvath’s writing evokes about all the settings introduced in the story is also amazing. I’ll just leave you with this quote, Ned, about his unusual upbringing:
“On the other hand, Fort McMurray wasn’t without any merit. You could go outside and see the northern lights any night in winter. Down south we had studied the northern lights but in Fort McMurray we experienced them. That’s when I decided that experience is everything. That there was little I could learn in a classroom that was as worthwhile as seeing it for myself. So I hit the road and have been hitting it more or less ever since.”