Moving to a new town can be hard for kids. And when that move is from a busy city to a rural area, it’s even more challenging. A new book by a Maine-based John Newbery Medal-winning author explores the complexities of this, and how opening up to a new experience can help.
“Moo,” by author Sharon Creech, is a middle-grade novel that tells the story of a family’s move from the city to rural Maine, and the relationships that develop as a result — including between 12-year-old Reena and a stubborn cow named Zora. This is Creech’s 20th book, all published with HarperCollins, a rarity for authors.
Told in both poetry and prose, the book is a little different from most novels.
“The character Reena started in this kind of lyrical way and then she evolved,” Creech said. “I think it works better if she alternates because she has these two different kinds of voices … like people in real life.”
Creech liked being able to mix poetry and prose in the book because it added an element of playfulness, which she said enhanced the reading of it.
“I’ve been wanting to do that in a book for a long time,” Creech said.
The story was inspired by her grandchildren’s real-life move to Maine, as well as her own.
“[My husband and I] had been living overseas for almost 20 years in England and Switzerland,” Creech explained. When she and her husband moved back to the United States, they were planning to settle in western New York in a house they had renovated. But when their daughter and her husband decided to move with their kids to Camden, everything changed.
“When they decided to move, they said, ‘Why don’t you come too?’” Creech said. “My husband said, ‘We’ll put our house on the market and if it sells we’ll move.’”
It did. And they did, and they’ve been living in Maine ever since.
Creech’s granddaughter began volunteering at a farm in Rockport, mucking stalls, leading 800-pound cows around and feeding them. That led her to join 4-H, and participating in fairs, which she found she loves.
“It’s this whole new delightful world,” Creech said. “We were full up with this whole new experience. … This living here, and living and breathing cows.”
While Creech’s grandchildren are used to inspiring her work, she said that she had a special moment with her grandson Niko when the advanced readers’ copies of the books arrived. He wanted to be the first to read it and did, with Creech reading the last 20 pages of the novel with him.
“It was the most moving experience to me. Seeing your words being read by your own grandchild … At the very end, he [said], ‘Awww, it was the right ending,’” Creech said.
“Moo” is available where books are sold. Creech will be signing copies of “Moo” at The Briar Patch on Central Street in downtown Bangor from 3-5 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 8.