Bird Lake Moon

Bird Lake Moon


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Spencer thought the house might be haunted.

Mitch knew it wasn't. And he knew why.

The whole time Spencer and Mitch hung out together at Bird Lake that summer, there were secrets keeping them apart.

And maybe a secret knowledge keeping them together, too—together like members of the same tribe. Like friends.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781436135337
Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC
Publication date: 06/25/2008
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 1.50(h) x 5.00(d)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

About the Author

Kevin Henkes has been praised both as a writer and as an illustrator. He received the Caldecott Medal for Kitten’s First Full Moon; Caldecott Honors for Waiting and Owen; two Newbery Honors—one for Olive’s Ocean and one for The Year of Billy Miller—and Geisel Honors for Waiting and Penny and Her Marble. His other books include Egg, Old Bear, A Good Day, Chrysanthemum, and the beloved Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse. Kevin Henkes lives with his family in Madison, Wisconsin.


Madison, Wisconsin

Date of Birth:

November 27, 1960

Place of Birth:

Racine, Wisconsin


University of Wisconsin, Madison

Read an Excerpt

Bird Lake Moon

Chapter One


Mitch Sinclair was slowly taking over the house, staking his claim. He had just finished carving his initials into the underside of the wooden porch railing, which was his boldest move so far. The other things he had done had required much less courage. He had swept the front stoop with his grandmother's broom. He had cleaned the decaying leaves and the puddle of murky water out of the birdbath in the side yard and filled it with fresh water. He had spat on the huge rotting tree stump at the corner of the lot each day for the past week, marking the territory as his. And he had taken to crawling under the screened back porch during the hot afternoons; he'd lean against the brick foundation in the cool shade, imagining a different life, if, as his mother had said, their old life was over. Forever.

Although he'd seen the house many times while visiting his grandparents, Mitch had never paid much attention to it before. The house was vacant. It was old and plain—white clapboard with dark green trim—and had been neglected for quite a while, so that all its lines, angles, and corners were softened like the edges on a well-used bar of soap. The windows were curtained, keeping the interior hidden. However, the curtains covering the small oval window on the back door were parted slightly, offering a glimpse of a sparsely furnished, shadowy corner of a room. That's all. With some hesitancy, Mitch had tried to open the door, turning the loose knob gently at first, then rattling it harder and harder. The door wouldn't budge. The front door was locked as well. Mitch's grandparents' housestood a short distance from the vacant one. The two yards were separated by a row of scraggly lilac bushes and clumps of seashells that reminded Mitch of crushed bones.

Both yards sloped down to Bird Lake. Mitch went swimming nearly every day; he lived in his bathing suit. There were more people around because it was summer, and yet it was quiet. A sleepy, sleepy place, Mitch's grandfather called it. When Mitch made a casual observation at dinner one night—breaking the dreadful silence—about the lack of potential friends, his grandmother said crisply that she liked having as few children around as possible. She quickly added that she didn't mean him, of course. But Mitch hadn't been so sure.

Mitch ran his finger over his initials. M.S. His father's initials were W.S. Wade Sinclair. Turn an M upside down and you get a W, thought Mitch. We're the same. It was an idle thought, but it caused a burning knot to form in his stomach. "We're not the same at all," Mitch whispered. And we never will be. At the moment, Mitch hated his father, hated him and yet longed to see him so badly tears pricked his eyes. He thought he could destroy this empty little house right now with his bare hands, he was that upset. But he wanted this house. He wanted it for himself and for his mother. To live in.

Mitch rubbed his finger over his initials again. "Ouch," he said. A splinter. A big one. But not big enough to pick out without a tweezers or a needle. He retreated to his spot under the porch and settled in. He hadn't asked his grandparents yet what they knew about the house, because he didn't want an answer that would disappoint him. Maybe he'd ask today. He dozed off in the still, hazy afternoon, blaming his father for everything wrong in the world, including his aching finger.

Sometimes he wished his father had simply vanished. That would have been easier to deal with. Then he could make up any story he wanted to explain his father's absence. Or he could honestly say that he didn't know where his father was or why he had disappeared. And if he had vanished, there would be the possibility that, at any moment, he'd return. There he'd be, suddenly—hunched at the sink, humming, scrubbing a frying pan, a dish towel slung over his shoulder. A familiar pose. Everything back in its proper place, the way it was meant to be.

He even wondered if death would be better than the truth. An honorable death. If his father were killed trying to stop a robbery at a gas station . . . something like that. A car accident would be okay, too, if it were someone else's fault or caused by a surprise storm.

But the truth was worse. The truth was that two and a half weeks ago, his father hadn't come home from work. He had called that night to say that he was going to live with someone else, a woman from his office.

Mitch hated thinking of that night—his mother pressing apologies upon him, and then her silence and the way she kept hugging him, her shoulder bending his nose back until he had to squirm away. He'd felt as if he were nobody's child.

The following morning, his father made a couple of phone calls to Mitch that left him more confused than ever, and left him with more questions than answers.

As that day passed, and the next, Mitch's sadness grew; it became a rock inside him, pulling him down. He carried the sadness everywhere, morning, noon, and night. It hurt to breathe. And then, after three days of looking at each other with mutual uncertainty, Mitch and his mother packed up their most necessary possessions and drove to Mitch's grandparents' house on Bird Lake. "I can't live here anymore," Mitch's mother had said as she stuffed clothes into duffle bags. "We don't belong here, now."

She told him they'd come back sometime during the summer to straighten things out and to pick up whatever they might have forgotten. He told her about a new movie he'd heard of, not because he really cared about this, but because it was a way to keep her from saying things that made him more uneasy than he already was. At one point during their conversation, her voice cracked and she had to turn away for a moment before she began talking again. She circled back to the same topic. "We couldn't afford to stay here if we wanted to, anyway," she said. "Not on a teachers' aide's salary."

Bird Lake Moon. Copyright (c) by Kevin Henkes . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Bird Lake Moon 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
janiereader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A fan of Kevin Henkes, I picked up this book to read since it was nominated for this year's Sunshine State Books (FL). It turns out to be a pretty good read. Twelve-year-old Mitch finds out his parent's are divorcing, and he and his Mom go up to the lake to spend the summer with his grandparents. During the course of his time there, he discovers that though his life is not perfect, no one's really is. This revelation and growth of character is one that many children will be able to relate to. Nice read.
km3scott on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Mitch is spending the summer at his grandparent's cottage on the lake. His parents are divorcing, and Mitch and his mom are trying to rebuild their lives.Mitch becomes curious about the abandoned-looking cottage next door. He spends time there to grieve the loss of his old life. Suddenly one day a family appears. Spencer is a boy a little younger than Mitch, but within a few days they become close friends. Spencer's mother is also grieving, but for a different reason. That is part of the reason his family is there.Grief, loss, friendship and a few coincidences are all explored in this serious novel for younger teens.
emitnick on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Darn the fuzzy, old-fashioned cover - no boy in the world is going to be attracted to it. And this is a fine boy book. Introspective and contemplative, it is true, but who says boys don't have feelings? Two families are staying by a lake. 12-year-old Mitch and his mom are staying with Mitch's grandparents because his father has left the family. 10-year-old Spencer and his family are back at the lake, 8 years after Spencer's older brother drowned one summer. This isn't so much a friendship story as it is the brief merging of these two thoughtful boys' lives during one important summer. What makes this book compelling is not the action but the way each boy thinks about the world and people around him.
librariankristin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When twelve-year-old Mitch's parents announce they are getting a divorce, Mitch and his mom go to stay at Bird Lake with his grandparents. Next door, ten-year-old Spencer and his family have returned to Bird Lake for the first time since his brother drowned in the lake many years ago. The two boys experience their feelings of loss together in this coming-of-age tale from Newbery Honor author Henkes.
abbylibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Mitch is at the lake because his parents are getting a D-I-V-O-R-C-E and he and his mom are staying with his grandparents while she gets things sorted out. Spencer is at the lake because his brother died there when he was little and his mom wanted to see if she could stand being there again. Each of the boys is dealing with his own problems and they'll come together to form a brief friendship that's exactly what they needed at that moment. It was fine. Well-written. But kind of boring. Felt kind of timeless, like it could be modern but it could have been 50 years ago.
mjsbooks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When 12-year-old Mitch, upset about his parents' impending divorce, plays a few pranks on the "intruders' who have moved in to the vacant house next to his grandparents lake home, he has no inkling that 10-year-old Spencer will interpret them as signs from his long dead brother, who died at the lake several years before. A quiet, bittersweet tale of the intense friendships that sometimes form between children whose paths only cross for a short time.
laini on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One boy, displaced by divorce and seeking a permanent residence of his own, haunts the house next door to his grandparents' hoping the owners will pick up and leave so he can move in. Eerily, the family he is "haunting" lost a son, brother, friend to a tragic death at Bird Lake, making them prone to feeling spooked. Will the family move away or will two boys experiencing deep emotional turbulence find a serendipitous friendship?
shelf-employed on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Bird Lake Moon starts off with an eerie feel. Mitch¿s parents are getting divorced. He and his mother are planning to spend the summer with his grandparents at their home on Bird Lake. Spencer¿s family is planning to spend some time at Bird Lake too. Both boys¿ families are touched with sadness and a hint of mystery. There are secrets in these placid lakeside cottages, ¿a shiver went through Spencer and wouldn¿t go away, as if a ribbon of ice had been tied to his spine.¿ Spencer and Mitch must come to terms with what is real and what is not. This is complicated by the story¿s tagline, ¿Just because you can¿t see something doesn¿t mean it isn¿t there.¿ Ultimately this is a tale of two boys, of friendship, of growing up, of moving on. Bird Lake Moon¿s chapters alternate between views of Mitch and Spencer. The families, particularly Spencer¿s younger sister, Lolly, are well-developed and believable. This is a thoughtfully written novel with an element of mystery that makes it a real page-turner.
jasonpettus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A friend has convinced me to try my hand this year for the first time at children's literature; but I don't actually know anything about children's literature, so am starting the process among other ways by first reading a stack of existing books that have been recommended to me. Kevin Henkes' Bird Lake Moon was recommended as a good example of books for older grade-schoolers and middle-schoolers (so roughly ages 10 to 13) that deal with dark material in a gentle yet realistic way; it's almost 40,000 words total, on the heavy side of such books, and also contains an expansive vocabulary that will be a pleasant challenge for younger readers. It's the story of two boys who one summer move next to each other in the sleepy Wisconsin cottage community of Bird Lake; one has a set of parents who are going through a divorce, which is why they've temporarily moved in with his mother's cantankerous grandparents, while the other has a brother who drowned at Bird Lake almost a decade ago, with this being the traumatized family's first trip back.Things I took away from this book, as far as my own struggle to become a better children's writer...--Although really well done, I can see here why people recommend so much that character-oriented novels for kids be loaded up with a lot of extra drama and unique events, with this book many times coming off as what I imagine is too subtle for many kids, and therefore with only a limited potential audience (although of course with that audience intensely passionate about the book, precisely for these reasons). Also, to reference my own reading habits as a kid, this book many times feels not like the best of someone like Judy Blume (where the characters create and drive the situations being played out) but more like her second-tier work, minor books like Deenie and Iggie's House where it feels like first an issue was picked ("I think I'll write a book about desegregation in the suburbs") and only then were characters created and a plotline written. Although I want to reiterate that Henkes does a great job with the material he's chosen here, just like adult literature these kinds of stories need to feel natural and not forced, which Henkes teeters just on the edge of many times.--And speaking of all this, I thought Henkes treads a very fine line here as far as how dark is too dark for kids in the 10-to-13 range; this is one of the issues I find fascinating as an author, in that I imagine many of my own future kid's books will be dark in tone as well, and I'm trying to learn exactly where the balance is for the pre-YA crowd. I really loved for example that one of our heroes, Mitch, is in typical divorced-kid fashion acting out just all the time, in ways that are sometimes surprisingly destructive for a person who's supposed to be our protagonist; for example, as part of his ongoing secret campaign to convince his new neighbors to leave again, in the desperate hope that his own family could move in next-door so that his mom and grandparents will stop fighting all the time, he actually unchains their dog and lets it run away while the family is gone for the afternoon, in what could've easily led to the dog's death or permanent disappearance in the real world. The book is full of moments like these, uncomfortably real details of just how dysfunctional people can get in the middle of a divorce or the grieving of a dead child, a polarizing element that I imagine young readers will either intensely love or hate.--And finally, I thought this book did a particularly great job at examining the subtle relationship between kids at different ages, which I'm told is a topic that's really loved by many child readers at this age; ten-year-old Mitch admires his neighbor Spencer for being twelve, Spencer admires Mitch back for his above-average athletic skills, while both have a begrudging tolerance only for their fairytale-spouting, costume-wearing chatterbox grade-school siblings. And I also think
KarenBall on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Mitch Sinclair was not planning on spending all summer at his grandparents' little house on Bird Lake. Because his parents' divorce is underway, he and his mother are now doing just that, and it's not easy. Spencer Stone hasn't been to Bird Lake in years, not since his older brother Matty drowned there, but his mother is finally ready to try to go to the family vacation house there again. The Stone house is right next to Mitch's grandparents, and Mitch was hoping to have the place to himself... so when the Stones show up with their intact family and beloved dog, Mitch decides to try to scare them away by making it look like a ghost is haunting the place. Told in two voices, the reader sees that Mitch's attempts at scary stunts aren't perceived that way by Spencer, as everything he sees is colored by his brother's death. This is not an action-packed mystery; instead, it is an emotionally-driven story about two boys dealing with two different tragedies, and it will be valuable to use in discussions about how two people can see the same thing and understand two completely different things from it. 6th grade and up.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Such a simple book yet i hold it dear to my heart after all these years.