Thursday, 6 February 2014

Racing the Moon

Racing the Moon by Michelle Morgan (Allen and Unwin)
PB RRP $15.99
ISBN 978-1-74331-635-1
Reviewed by Ann Harth (

Joe Riley rigs billy cart races and sells eggs in the streets of Sydney during the Depression. His techniques for making a few shillings, although not strictly legal, are a matter of survival. His parents want something better for Joe and he is sent to a boarding school across the harbour. Joe is miserable. He misses his family, his home and especially his freedom. St Bartholomew feels like a prison – the food is terrible, the uniform scratchy and the boys, superior. But these are nothing compared to his interactions with Brother Felix. After a final life-changing altercation, Joe is sent to The Farm, a reform school south of Sydney.

At The Farm, Joe grows to feel as though he belongs – something he never did at St Bartholomew’s. He makes close friends, gains valuable skills and finds fulfilment in hard work and productivity. The year is almost over and Joe is ready to go home but before leaving The Farm, he has one final and dangerous challenge. Joe Riley must Race the Moon.

This historical novel for children aged 12-14 will transport young readers into New South Wales during the 1930s. Rich with sensory images, and accurate historical details, Racing the Moon offers a taste of life during the depression in three distinct settings: the streets of Sydney, a Catholic boarding school and a tough, but fair, reform school. 13-year-old Joe tells his story in the realistic voice of a young boy and the reader is invited to grow close to him as they watch him experience a painful, but beneficial year away from home.

I would recommend this story for young people who enjoy character-driven historical fiction. Clear and compelling, this book will leave its audience with a genuine feel for life during the Depression. Michelle Morgan lives in the Southern Highlands with her family and the local wildlife. She has written many plays, some of which have been performed during short play festivals in NSW. She also writes songs with her husband. This is her first novel. For more information about Michelle, visit 

Ann Harth is a published children's author, freelance editor, ghostwriter and writing teacher at Australian College of Journalism. She loves to read and is committed to creating children's literature that inspires, entertains and triggers a tiny twist in the mind. Her latest middle-grade novel, The Art of Magic, is now available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. 

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