How High the Moon by Karyn Parsons

Hello, Karyn Parsons! Welcome to Watch. Connect. Read. Thank you for stopping by to celebrate How High the Moon, a beautiful and enthralling novel I have not stopped thinking about since I finished reading it on January 25, 2019. 

Karyn Parsons: Hi, John! And I haven’t stopped thinking about the lovely time I had speaking with you when we met months ago. I’ve been looking forward to having another chance to connect. I’m so glad you liked the book! 

Thank you! I loved meeting you and chatting with you as well. 

Scenario: A fifth-grade teacher spots you holding a copy of How High the Moon in an elevator during a reading conference. She turns to you and says, “Wow! What a gorgeous cover! What is How High the Moon about?” You have about 20 seconds to tell her about it. Ready, set, go!

Karyn Parsons: It’s about a light-skinned, 11 year-old girl named Ella, growing up in the Jim Crow south. While her grandparents that she lives with are black and her mother, up in Boston working on a career as a jazz singer, is black, Ella doesn’t know who her father is and if he’s black or maybe even white.

When Ella gets the opportunity to spend time with her mother up in Boston, she sees how different things are for black folks in the north. She also learns some unexpected things about her mother and finds a clue as to who her father might be.

Once back home in South Carolina, Ella discovers that her good friend, George, has been arrested for the murder of two little white girls. His story is based on the true story of George Stinney, Jr, who at 14, was the youngest person ever to be executed in the U.S. Many years after his execution, his trial was reexamined and thrown out as a sham, but that shard of justice was too late for George.

In How High the Moon we see the impact this sort of tragedy has on one young girl and her community. We also see how hope rises, and how family is created where love grows. 

What is one thing you’ve learned or has surprised you as you travel around the world sharing How High the Moon with readers?

Karyn Parsons: I think I was pleasantly surprised to find that children, their caregivers, and educators are ready to have challenging, yet important discussions about ugly parts of America’s past. Everyone seems to recognize the difficulty of some of the subjects in the book, but I have been so happy to see that everyone is more interested in learning the truth above all else.

Please finish these sentence starters:

Ella’s family isn’t a typical storybook, cookie cutter family, but it is brimming with love. Everything about Ella’s family is “right.”

I hope How High the Moon
helps kids recognize what makes up a family in their world, and that the book takes them on a trip back in history where they can see how different the world was, yet how things from the past have shaped some of the things that we experience today.

School libraries are sacred spaces. Even as I think back to the school libraries of my childhood I am filled with wonder and the promise of excitement, exploration, adventure, and understanding.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me if I had any pets. I know you have a cat named Lou Grant! I have a black lab named Langston, a Russian tortoise named August, and a bearded dragon named Jake. He loves blueberries. 

Borrow How High the Moon from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent


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