CM . . .
. Volume XVIII Number 41. . . .June 22, 2012
Jay is a First Nations boy who has grown up in the city with little knowledge of his heritage. His night-time graffiti activity gets him into a situation where he faces juvenile detention, but his grandfather comes into town to suggest he be sentenced to time on his remote reservation instead. Uprooted from his friends and his life, Jay is resentful, and he views the poverty of his grandfather’s village with contempt. He is slowly won over by the sense of community and the First Nations culture that the village elders are trying to preserve. His grandfather teaches him to carve a totem pole. Ultimately, Jay chooses to stay on the reservation and comes up with a plan to improve his tribe’s situation. The moon never turns her back on the earth, so Jay learns to contribute to his community “because of the moon.”
Cutayne vividly describes the Coast First Nations village and its inhabitants with realism, humour and sensitivity. Jay judges the place and the people harshly when he first arrives, but as he gets to know the various quirky characters and their stories, he—and thus the reader—is able to feel a connection and care about their fate.
Cutayne’s strength is also the weakness of Because of the Moon. She is very complete in her depiction of the village, so there are a lot of interesting characters and great description that don’t need to be there. The pacing suffers from too many subplots not adequately tied together. There is a bullying subplot and a teen pregnancy story that could have been eliminated. Because of the Moon contains a great story about the power of art and the artistic spirit to transform individuals and communities. It would be a stronger book if it focussed on this story and eliminated many of the side plots and characters.
Cutayne presents a great deal of information about the Coast First Nations people. Sometimes the information is conveyed naturally through the story, but sometimes it comes via stilted and didactic-sounding dialog. Because of the Moon could be an excellent book to immerse students in a culture they may know little about, but the intended audience will have little patience with didacticism and may lose interest in the episodic plot. The humour will grab their attention, however, and Jay is an engaging hero.
Kim Aippersbach is a freelance editor and writer with three children in Vancouver, BC.