Summer on the Moon

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Summer on the Moon

What’s the Story?   “Summer on the Moon” is set during “the great recession.” The economy is tanking… People are scared… But for Socko Starr, and his mother, Delia, being worried about money is nothing new. They are living in a cramped inner city apartment, Socko trying to dodge the local gang leader, Rapp, when Socko’s great grandfather makes them an offer. “The General” will buy them a house if they agree to take care of him so he doesn’t have to go into a nursing home.

The General, who Socko has never met, turns out to be a crotchety, bossy old man, who thinks it is a joke to “play dead” to shake up his great-grandson—and that isn’t the only surprise when the mother and son start their new life.

The house Delia buys seems like a great bargain. What she doesn’t know is that “Moon Ridge Estates,” the half-finished subdivision the house is in, is going bankrupt. When Delia, Socko and The General move in, they are the only people who live there.

So, what is it like to be the only kid in a sprawling subdivision of unfinished houses? It’s great! Socko suddenly has turf of his own—way more than the gang leader, Rapp, could ever imagine. Socko turns the empty swimming pool into his own personal skate park, skeletal houses become giant jungle gyms.

Then one day another kid moves into the subdivision. Livvy says she “owns” Moon Ridge Estates. It is her father’s project. But who knows what will happen if Moon Ridge goes bust? Socko is caught up in his new life when Rapp, the nightmare he thought he had left behind, comes after him.

How does it end? All I’ll say is that it ends with a splash (like a car makes when it flies into a swimming pool).

Where did the story idea come from? I visit schools. Lots of schools. I talk about the ingredients of storytelling: plot, character and setting. One day I asked the students to describe a place they knew really well. I usually get descriptions of Disney, or a grandmother’s house, or summer camp. That day I heard about a cardboard box. The box was the place the student went to be alone.

It made me think about how everyone needs territory. That’s true for animals and people—especially young people who don’t own houses or cars. And in walked Socko and his buddy Damien, two kids living in a dangerous territory. The only place they could call their own was the roof of their apartment building. But it was only theirs until the local gang leader discovered them on the roof and dangled Damien over the five story drop-off.

What’s Real?  The financial hard times the characters suffer are definitely real. I thought it was important to talk about the downturn in the economy since it affected almost everyone. The General, the grouchy World War II vet, represents the generation that included my father, my uncles, and most of my friends’ dads. This generation is dying out and I wanted a chance to write about them. The oddball slang used by the old guy such as “fini kaput” come from that long-ago war. The subdivision, Moon Bridge Estates, is loosely based on the one I grew up in, Colonial Park, in Princeton Junction, New Jersey. When we moved in there wasn’t a tree in the place. Then we had five years of drought when nothing grew. The bleak landscape Socko calls his “territory” was mine as well.

There is also a theme song for this book.

Click here and listen to the “Summer on the Moon” theme song written and performed by “Hot Tamale” (a musical duo made up of me and Craig Reeder).