‘Spraying the crops
and jungle with Agent Orange,
that’s not right,’ says Grandma,
and her hand shakes
that little drops of tea
fall on the dainty
like little drops of blood.
Although I readily admit to not being a huge fan of verse novels, I thoroughly enjoyed Lorraine Marwood‘s Footprints on the Moon released by UQP earlier this month.
Set in 1969, the story explores the social repercussions of the Vietnam War set against the backdrop of the first human landing on the moon. Footprints on the Moon shows how divided the Australian community was over the Vietnam War. It slots the war into context with other wars, sending the message that war never seems to bring peace.
Sharnie has just got to high school and is trying to come to grips with new friends and old, and how her older sister Cas is pulling away. Sharnie is curious about her world, has questions about conscription and the human cost of war, and is excited about the first landing on the moon. She navigates her world with gentleness and sensitivity. And throughout all the upheaval and change, it is Gran who Sharnie turns to. Gran with her tea, cake, memories, and garden give Sharnie support and a safe place where she can talk about her worries and fears.
What I most enjoyed about Footprints on the Moon was Sharnie’s experience of growing up set within a particular historical context, which is still highly relevant to today’s middle readers who may be grappling with understanding issues such as climate change, the global pandemic, and increasing social change. Plus, Sharnie is such a loveable character with all the feels.
Footprints on the Moon is widely accessible historical fiction and I can see this being a great resource in schools and educational settings. Teaching resources are available from the publisher’s website. This is a gentle story of growing up during a tumultuous time and learning to be true to yourself. Definitely one to add to your reading pile!
Here’s the publisher’s blurb:
Humans are about to leave footprints on the moon, but what sort of mark can one girl make here on earth?
It’s 1969 and life is changing fast. Sharnie Burley is starting high school and finding it tough to make new friends. As the world waits to see if humans will land on the moon, the Vietnam War rages overseas. While her little cousin, Lewis, makes pretend moon boots, young men are being called up to fight, sometimes without having any choice in the matter. Sometimes without ever coming home.
Dad thinks serving your country in a war is honourable, but when Sharnie’s older sister, Cas, meets a returned soldier and starts getting involved in anti-war protests, a rift in their family begins to show. Sharnie would usually turn to her grandma for support, but lately Gran’s been forgetting things.
Can she find her own way in this brave new world?