Twelve year old Mimi has just moved from California to a small town in Vermont. The year is 1969, and Mimi struggles to figure out where she belongs. As the half-Black and half-Japanese new girl in school who wants to be an astronaut, Mimi wonders if she will ever be happy in her new town, and if she and her family will ever be accepted. Written entirely in verse, Full Cicada Moon is a wonderful and inspiring read for kids of all ages.
Mimi Yoshiko Oliver is unlike the other kids in her predominantly white new town of Hillsborough, Vermont. Mimi’s mother is Japanese and her father is Black, something that was never an issue in Berkeley, California, where they moved from. It seems as though everyone in town either avoids the family, or makes comments to or about them, especially their neighbor, who Mimi calls Mr. Dell, because he is a farmer.
At school, students and teachers wonder about Mimi’s race, and she is often asked about it. In her journal for English, Mimi writes poems to help her teacher get to know her better. Her science teacher, Mrs. Stanton, sees Mimi’s passion and encourages her to do a project on the phases of the moon. When Mimi wants to join shop class in order to build a stellar project, she is not allowed because she is a girl, and girls belong in home economics.
Against Mr. Dell’s wishes, Mimi befriends his grand-nephew, Timothy, who stays with his uncle during school breaks while his mother works. Timothy’s brother Wesley is fighting in the Vietnam War. Timothy agrees to teach Mimi how to use his uncle’s tools, and in return, Mimi’s dad teaches Timothy all about cooking; the two begin to form an unlikely friendship. Mimi also befriends Stacey, a white girl who just moved from Georgia at the beginning of the school year. Stacey’s mother doesn’t approve of their friendship, and Mimi is hurt when she is not invited to Stacey’s birthday party.
As seventh grade ends and summer approaches, Mimi has learned a lot about herself and better understands her place in the world. She gains confidence and strength. The family watches the moon landing with Timothy, and Timothy gives her a moon necklace on her birthday. When eighth grade begins, Mimi is excited to start the new year. One day, Mimi and Stacey decide to go to shop class with the boys, and refuse to leave. They sit peacefully until they are taken to the principal’s office and suspended for 2 weeks for breaking the rules. While Stacey’s mother is outraged, Mimi’s father is proud of her for standing up for what she believes in. When the girls return to school, the boys are sitting in home economics, and the girls are sitting in shop class; it seems they made a difference after all! Although their protest doesn’t get the results they had hoped for, the principal does decide to offer an after-school shop club for girls and an after-school home economics club for boys. At the school dance, Stacey dances with Victor, the new Black boy who she has a crush on. The other boys in school get jealous, and a fight breaks out.
As Thanksgiving nears, Mimi and her mother decide to pardon the turkeys that they have raised. When one of them gets attacked by a coyote, Pattress, Mr. Dell’s dog, tries to save it and gets injured and lost in the woods. When Mimi and her mother find the dog, Mr. Dell realizes that he’s been a terrible neighbor and apologizes for many things. Mimi’s family visits from California, and Mr. Dell takes her for a ride in his plane, letting her steer the yoke. When Mrs. Stanton offers Mimi a scholarship to a space camp, Mimi is overjoyed; she is finally finding her place and realizing who she is: a friend, daughter, scientist, and one day, an astronaut.
Full Cicada Moon is brilliantly written in poems, which students will love. It can be used as part of a poetry unit, a historical fiction unit, a social studies unit, and so much more. It is a moving story about one girl’s desire to fit in, while still staying true to herself, and believing that she can do anything and be anything that she puts her mind to.