Moongarden: Plotting the Stars
Michelle A. Barry
Pixel + Ink Books
Published November 1, 2022
The Secret Garden meets The City of Ember as an unlikely heroine confronts loneliness and crippling parental expectations, finding her seed of courage to weed out an intergalactic government conspiracy tied to failed climate change policy in this STEM-inspired series starter.
Centuries ago, Earth’s plants turned toxic, rendering life on the planet impossible, and humanity took to space to cultivate new homes. Myra Porter is in her first year at an elite school on the Moon to train and develop her Creer in math as a Number Whisper—like her famous Number Whisperer parents. But she’s crumbling under the pressure, she doesn’t fit in, and worst of all, the tattoos that signal her Creer growing aren’t developing. In her heart, she knows she doesn’t have a Creer, and soon, everyone else will, too.
I can definitely see the comparison to THE SECRET GARDEN and CITY OF EMBER in this book. I think I kept wishing for more overlap with THE SECRET GARDEN, though. Like, I kept looking for or hoping for my favorite things about that story to be included in this book. There are a few things that made it into MOONGARDEN, though.
In THE SECRET GARDEN, the main character, Mary, follows a robin who leads her to the garden. In MOONGARDEN, a small robot Myra names Bin-ro, taken from the ID label on its underside, leads her to a hidden garden. I really enjoyed the parts with his character. There’s also an older man who was once a gardener who helps her, like Ben from the original story.
Just like in CITY OF EMBER, Myra and her friends discover a cover-up that could indicate their whole civilization is in danger. She also discovers forgotten and forbidden magic that could save everyone.
So there are a lot of really cool elements to the story, and I thought all of those elements worked well together.
I guess I kind of have mixed feelings about the main character, Myra. There were things I liked about her a lot. She doesn’t back down when she believes in something, even if the idea is unpopular. That stubbornness sometimes frustrated me, though. Maybe I wanted to see the garden have an effect on her the way it does Mary in THE SECRET GARDEN? I’m not sure what I hoped for there.
On the whole, I love that this is a middle grade sci-fi novel, and I think readers who liked CITY OF EMBER should check this one out.
Recommended for Ages 8 to 12.
One character, Bernie, is a clone and has fewer rights/isn’t seen as truly human. Lila, Myra’s friend and roommate is described as having brown skin.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Most characters have a certain affinity for magic.
Some instances of bullying.
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