Monday, February 4, 2013

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Margaret and the Moth Tree

Today’s pick:  Margaret and the Moth Tree by Brit Trogen and Kari Trogen

Kids Can Press, 2012

From the publisher:
Lemony Snicket meets Charlotte's Web in this spellbinding story about a quiet, brown-haired orphan named Margaret trapped in a dreadful orphanage run by the sinister, beautiful Miss Switch. After an unsuccessful attempt to alert authorities to Miss Switch's tyranny, Margaret is forced to endure a life of complete silence. But the new state of affairs proves to be more blessing than curse. You see, Margaret can hear things other people cannot. And on one incredible day, Margaret hears tiny voices coming from a strange, thorny tree and discovers a community of playful moths. Together Margaret and the moths prepare a plan to end Miss Switch's reign of terror and provide a better life for everyone.

My Take: 

I've never come across moths featured in a story before (and I wasn't enthusiastic at first, since I'm not too fond of moths), but I liked the humour in this story. I also liked Margaret’s ability to listen to the “very smallest of sounds” in nature. Although the storyline of an orphan meeting up with an evil matron at an orphanage is not new, Margaret’s personality and the unique element of the moths kept me reading. The story had a magical feel to it that I think will appeal to younger middle grade readers.
The voice in this novel draws you in. As a writer, I studied the way the authors included specific details to add humor and personality, such as Miss Switch admiring her “own glittery reflection” or a girl smiling at Margaret with “the type of smile a hyena might give a tasty mutton chop”. Although writers are often warned to use adjectives and adverbs sparingly, here they are used effectively to create a specific writing style.

Favourite quotes:
“Any place you can go to escape from the pinches and punishments of the world is called a sanctuary, and this is just what Margaret had found in the moth tree.”

“…there are some talents that can never really be lost. They are only hiding, like a sleeping turtle in its shell, waiting to be coaxed out and used again.”

Other Info:
Brit Trogen and Kari Trogen are sisters.

Kari lives in Toronto and has been writing stories since she was in elementary school. Brit lives in New York and studied biology before she became a writer.
According to the publisher’s website, the two sisters came up with the story on a trip through New Brunswick, Canada. This is their first novel.

This book is nominated for the Ontario Library Association's Forest of Reading in the Silver Birch Express (Fiction) category for 2013.

For more, check out their author websites: Brit Trogen and Kari Trogen

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday was dreamed up by the incredible Shannon Messenger, author of Keeper of the Lost Cities. Visit her blog for an up-to-date list of all the bloggers who are participating and posting about middle grade books today!



  1. Thanks for sharing this. As an adoptive mom, I'm kind of tired of the evil orphanage theme. Although this sounds good, not sure I'll read it. But thanks for spotlighting it.

    1. So true, Natalie. It is a theme that is done over and over.

  2. How cool that two sisters wrote a novel together.

    And yes, I also wanted to comment on the sinister Miss Switch running the dreadful orphanage. Wish authors would come up with something different.

    This book sounds familiar - it's possible I've seen it on MMGM before, but not for a while. Thanks for pointing out the great imagery and voice.

  3. Yes, a la Joanne, I seem to remember sometime somewhere reading a book featuring moths. (I have read a couple of orphan stories where the people running the orphanage are kind--Journey to the River Sea (Eva Ibbotson)and The Secret Room (Antonia Michaelis)--but it surely is tempting for a writer to create a villainous character who has such control over a child's life. In fact, I may have been tempted myself a while back (studiously refuses to look at trunk holding long-neglected novel.)

    1. As I start collecting ideas for my 5th novel, my kids are begging me NOT to include another evil villain, because they are getting so common.


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