Review by Ian Keogh
Christine has heard neighbourhood rumours about Moon Lin, so is concerned when her parents reveal that Moon and her mother will be moving into the apartment across from their house. The reality proves to be nothing like the rumours. Moon is enthusiastically friendly and smiling, and she and Christine become best buddies.
Stargazing is a story aiming messages at a young audience, and while it eventually becomes a heartbreaker, it takes a fair while to get going as the first message is that readers shouldn’t believe everything they hear. To establish that takes around thirty pages, which further show that Christine’s parents are kind and considerate, but also quite conservative, reiterated several times as Christine is unsure whether she ought to do some things suggested by Moon.
Jen Wang keeps her expressive artwork simple and easy to follow, nevertheless supplying plenty of character to the girls. We can know Christine is cautious and uncertain from the way she’s drawn, while Moon’s confidence shines through. Musical numbers are important, and these are lively.
The first half of Stargazing establishes Christine and Moon’s growing friendship, but it’s in the second where the story really takes off. From initial references about Moon’s mother having a hard time we learn of her circumstances and why she’s having a hard time, and that comes along with Moon feeling confident enough to confide an astonishing secret to Christine. It’s beyond her rational world, but Christine keeps quiet. It eventually turns out there’s a reason for some of what Moon is, and this is where Stargazing takes a dark turn. Again, it’s a message, one pointing out to children that sometimes it’s necessary to push well beyond a comfort zone because it’s the right thing to do for someone else. It’s not handled in the expected way, though, as Christine has largely a non-confrontational personality, and because some photos supplied after the story indicate that Stargazing is far more personal than might have been assumed.
It makes for an ultimately moving and life-affirming experience, but adults passing this to children ought to be aware that it’s likely to raise some awkward questions, so they may want to read it themselves first.