Unhooking the Moon by Gregory Hughes

When an adventurous sister-and-brother duo become orphans, a funny and heartbreaking roadtrip to New York ensues, as the pair searches for their long-lost uncle.

Meet the Rat: A dancing, soccer-loving, fearless ten-year-old from Winnipeg, Manitoba. Meet her older brother, Bob: Protector of the Rat, though more often than not her faithful follower, Bob is determined to build a new and better life for him and his sister in America. Of particular concern for him are his sister’s mysterious fits, which keep getting more and more severe.

On their adventures traveling alone from the flatlands of Winnipeg, southward across the border into America, Bob and the Rat make friends with a host of unlikely characters, including a hilarious con man and a famous rap star. As they struggle to survive in the big city, they realize that finding your uncle in New York is incredibly difficult if you have almost no information about him—even if he is rumored to be one of the city’s biggest drug dealers…


“I would really recommend Unhooking the Moon to all readers especially to teenagers. I think Unhooking the Moon was a thriller, a true page turner”.   These are the words of an adolescent like you, who read the novel and loved it deeply.  She wrote her book report on it and if you are interested in reading it (I think you could benefit from it, not just for her analysis, but for the use of the English language too!) click here.



untitledUnhooking the moonThese are the two different bookcovers of the novel you can find.  Which do you like better? Why?

If you could ask the writer a few questions, what would they be?

Look at the interview of a bunch of Italian students.  They are great and I would like to thank them for the wonderful job they did.  Isn’t the translator great too?

Read the interview and see whether your questions are somehow answered.

It would be great if you could create your own booktrailer, since there is not one on the web.  Would you like to be the first ones to launch one? I would be very proud of you if you did!!!

We saw that there are different themes at stake in this failry-like novel.  One of the themes that is not generally dealt with is pedophilia.  Then there are the themes of death, the loss of a dear person to you, the strong emotional bonds between siblings.  Other themes are: friendship, growing up and life as a journey of self-discovery.  Try to make this novel completely yours by creating something worthwhile watching/reading of your own.  I would like you to:

  • Think of a theme dear to you and write your slam poem on it (Who are you? Who are you addressing? Why?).  Bear in mind the features of SLAM POETRY we dealt with in class.  You have your hand-out and you can resort to it.
  • Think of how you would create a book trailer or a book review.  It is up to you to choose You can use the applications Adobe Spark, Screencast-O-matic (you need to create a presentation first), Windows Movie Maker, Wevideo, just to mention the ones that I know.  You are free to use any other.
  • Write the page of a diary of one of the characters referring to one of the key moments in the novel.
  • Write a “powerful dialogue” between the brother and the sister.  Before you do this, the following excerpts taken from two different reviews may help you understand the strong bond there is between the two siblings:

Twelve-year-old Bob DeBillier lives in Winnipeg with his 10-year-old sister, definitely quirky if not actually crazy, Marie Claire, who is known to all as the Rat. Their mother died long ago but their father, although a big drinker, takes good care of them. It’s not long before summer vacation will begin. Normally Bob would be over the moon about school ending, but his mood has been shattered by the Rat’s calm pronouncement that their father (who is not old and seems healthy despite the drinking) will die soon. Bob is outraged that she would make such a prediction but he is also unnerved because the Rat has made prophecies in the past that have actually come true.

Of course, he is still devastated when they arrive home from their last day of school to discover Dad curled on the kitchen floor, his eyes wide open and lifeless. Bob is so upset that he almost is not bothered by the Rat’s blithe pronouncement that “Pa’s a goner!” But when Bob’s little sister insists that their father be buried in the back garden and his death not reported to the proper authorities, he is flummoxed. However, the Rat puts forth a convincing argument, saying the adults in charge are sure to take them away and put them in a home, possibly even separating the siblings. Neither one of them will agree to such a thing.

After their friends help them with the ad hoc burial and funeral ceremony, they discuss their next move. Their father has a brother in New York City, they know. Uncle Jerome completely lost contact with their part of the family, but they know that he has a rough reputation. Jerome’s been in lots of trouble and now is said to work as a drug dealer. Still, he is their only relative and their only hope of living together as a family. The Rat and Bob decide they will take their bikes and backpacks, hop a freight train and make their way to New York. There, somehow, some way, they will find their Uncle Jerome.

(Source: http://www.kidsreads.com)

The girl at the heart of the book is 10-year-old Marie Claire Wazhashnoons DeBillier, a k a the Rat, a hilariously precocious force of nature who lives near the city of Winnipeg with her kind but boozy father and her 12-year-old brother, Bob, on a prairie “so flat you can watch your dog run away for three days.”

Wazhashnoons, we are told, is the Native American word for Little Rat, the name given to Marie Claire when her French mother, now dead, gave birth while visiting a reservation. As peculiar as her name, the Rat possesses a grab bag of quirks and talents perfectly suited to drive a brother to heights of bewilderment and grudging admiration. She chats fluently in French, English, Spanish and the local Native tongue, is nourished by a dog’s breakfast of religious beliefs, and is always on the lookout for “goddamn pedophiles.” She is also clairvoyant, a gift, her mother’s Native friend says, of “the Great Spirit.”

As narrated by Bob, the story’s straight man, the siblings enjoy an idyllic childhood, replete with pleasures like traveling to school by canoe. But a dark undercurrent runs through this funny novel. Part and parcel with the Rat’s shamanic gift are the seizures she suffers, frightening bouts from which only the hugs and soothing words of her father seem capable of releasing her.

When the siblings’ father drops dead (as the Rat predicted he would), the Rat convinces Bob that their only hope of staying out of a children’s home is to head to New York to seek out an estranged uncle reputed to be a drug dealer. As preposterous as this plan sounds, Bob concludes it is his sister’s best hope: “She couldn’t handle being put in a home. She’s crazy and they’d try to make her normal.”

Although the Rat seems more kooky than disturbed, her mental condition eventually becomes the book’s central concern: The girl is touched, but is she touched by genius, madness or both? As the answer reveals itself, the dynamic between the siblings shifts. While the Rat’s openhearted impetuousness drives their headlong journey, Bob gradually becomes less of a sidekick and more of a protector, soothing his sister while she writhes in agony during intensifying fits.

(Source: http://www.nytimes.com)

  • Write a different ending to the story.


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16 Responses to Unhooking the Moon by Gregory Hughes

  1. Laura Manzan says:

    The second because you can see better the Moon and the characters.
    Why did you decide to write a so strong story?
    There are some real elements in the story?

  2. Pozzi Valentina says:

    My questions for Gregory Hughes:
    1) For the characters of this book, have you found inspiration from real life or real people?
    2) I read some beautiful descriptions of New York City. Do you like this city? Have you ever lived there?
    3) The final of this book is a little sad. Would you like to change it?

  3. Deborah D'Angelo says:

    I would ask to Gregory Hughes:
    1) What had bring you to write a novel about two parentless children?
    2) Why you chose New York as the novel’s background?
    3) If you were Bob or Marie Claire, would you trust in Joe and Tommy at first sight?
    4) Have you evere met Ice (the singer)?

  4. beatrice says:

    1.would you have had an experience like the one you wrote about in your book when you was a child?
    2. have you alraedy thinking about other stories for your next books? if yes, which kind of stories?

  5. Alessia Giordano says:

    If I met the writer I would ask him these questions:
    1) From what did you get the inspiration to write this book?
    2) Did you love reading when you were a child? What kind of books did you prefer?
    3) What advice would you like to give to teenagers? And what tip would you like to give to a teen of my age who loves writing and wants to become a writer?

  6. Claudia Lavopa says:

    these are the two questions:
    when did you start write novels?
    what inspired you to write this book?

  7. Erica Corazza says:

    These are the two questions:
    1. How did you get the inspiration to write this novel?
    2. How did you choose the names of the characters?

  8. Cristian Corcimari says:

    If I could ask the writer a few questions, I would ask him:
    What do you think of young people in today’s world, everything happens like this in his book?
    What influence does your book about kids today?

  9. Anna Reschiotto says:

    Questions for Gregory Huges:
    1. When did you start writing? When did you realize writing was your passion?
    2. What did you think when you were writing “Unhooking the Moon”? Why just this story?
    3. Where do you get your inspiration from?
    4. who were, and still are, your mentors?
    5. Which of the books you’ve read of other authors is your favorite?

  10. Borin Anna says:

    How many months did you spend to write this book?

    Why did you dedicate your book to Stephanie and her kids? Who are they?

    Have you always been interested in books?

  11. Alberto Rocco says:

    Dear Grogory Hughes
    Are some events of the book inspired to something wich happened to someone you know or straight to you?
    How long has it been since you’ve had the idea for the book and when you started wrinting?
    How many times did you re-read your book to find mistakes?

  12. AndreaBoccalon says:

    What is the relationship with his parents?
    What do you think of the world today?

  13. Alexia says:

    Hello! My questions are:
    – When you were a kid your dream was to become a writer? And , if it wasn’t, what was your dream?
    -At what age books became interesting for you and you started writing ?
    -What inspired you to write this amazing adventure?
    -Do you already have in mind what will you tell in your next book?
    – Do you love your job like the first time?

  14. Chiara Tosi says:

    questions to Gregory Huges:
    “Why did you chose Winnipeg?”
    “If you were Bob, what would you do when your dad died?”

  15. Sara Boschin says:

    In my opinion the second cover is the best because the children and the moon are more big than in the first one and the color remember the moon’s light.

    1) When you wrote this novel, did you told about personal experiences?
    2) What is the moral message that you want to send with this book?

    Yes, for me ha is a great transalator. He has a wonderful pronunciation and I hope become great like him in the future.

  16. Sara Foresto says:

    i would like to ask to the writer why he decided to write a story about two young orphans? there is a particular motivation? and why he decided to deal with those issues?

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