A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus, read by Polly Lee (audiobook review)

Kate Albus knocks it out of the park with her debut, A Place to Hang the Moon. Set on the homefront in England during World War II, when children were being evacuated to the country, this story of three orphans in search of their forever home is delightful and heartwarming middle grade fiction that adults will love, too. 

William, Anna, and Edmund have an often tender sibling relationship, with William taking on a more parental role. Joining a school group that is bound for a village, they have more than one placement that is less than ideal, and the village library becomes their safe haven despite the librarian, Mrs. Mueller, being considered “unsuitable.”

Particularly if you enjoy stories set during World War II, within which I personally find that I prefer a homefront setting, this is an excellent pick for a read aloud, read-along, or a private, cozy read.

I loved many things in this story, particularly the nods to the history of juvenile orphan fiction, Anna’s dilemma in having to pick just one book to the country, that she chooses A Little Princess, and a pivotal moment for William in the latter part of the book. Edmund was a bit of a trouble magnet, making me wonder if Edmunds are typically fractious younger brothers in England – and the author’s mention of C.S. Lewis “hence Edmund” in her author’s note confirmed all.

Soon after starting the library e-book, I switched to the audiobook version. Polly Lee’s narration is superb, endowing each character with just the right amount of personality – her Miss Carr is sharply imperious, her Mrs. Muller is all gentleness and warmth. While I always listen to audiobooks at 1.25 or 1.5 speed, Polly Lee had me listening at her natural speed. Pitch, tone, cadence…whatever metric of attributes you consider essential in an audiobook narrator, Polly Lee met them all for me.

This is definitely one for the re-read/re-listen “shelf.” Highly recommended.

About the Book

A heartwarming story about three siblings, evacuated from London to live in the countryside, looking for a permanent home—and a new meaning for family.
A New York Public Library Best Book of the Year

It is 1940 and William, 12, Edmund, 11, and Anna, 9, aren’t terribly upset by the death of the not-so-grandmotherly grandmother who has taken care of them since their parents died.
But the children do need a guardian, and in the dark days of World War II London, those are in short supply, especially if they hope to stay together. Could the mass wartime evacuation of children from London to the countryside be the answer? 
It’s a preposterous plan, but off they go— keeping their predicament a secret, and hoping to be placed in a temporary home that ends up lasting forever. Moving from one billet to another, the children suffer the cruel trickery of foster brothers, the cold realities of outdoor toilets and the hollowness of empty stomachs.
But at least they find comfort in the village lending library— a cozy shelter from the harshness of everyday life, filled with favorite stories and the quiet company of Nora Müller, the kind librarian.  The children wonder if Nora could be the family they’ve been searching for. . . . But the shadow of the war, and the unknown whereaouts of Nora’s German husband complicate matters.  
A Place to Hang the Moon is a story about the importance of family: the one you’re given, and the one you choose. Filled with rich, sensory prose, allusions to classic children’s stories like A Little Princess, Mary Poppins, and The Story of Ferdinand, this cozy tale with a classic feel is sure to warm your heart. 
An ALSC Notable Children’s Book
An SCBWI Crystal Kite Award Winner
A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection
A CCBC Choice

A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus | Margaret Ferguson Books, October 2022 | ebook, audiobook, 320 Pages