by Tess Hilmo
Synopsis: On the same day as the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, 250 miles away in Peshtigo, Wisconsin, there was an even more devastating fire. Twelve-year-old Ailis and her younger brother, Quinn, survive, but their family does not. Ailis and Quinn are taken by a family acquaintance to live in a boarding house in Chicago, where they meet six-year-old Nettie, an orphan displaced by Chicago’s fire. But the woman who runs the boarding house makes their lives miserable, and Ailis vows to find a way for the three of them to leave. Ailis finds a job at a millinery shop and Quinn plays his fiddle on the streets so they can save money. Then Nettie disappears, and Ailis and Quinn discover she’s been kidnapped by a group that forces children to work in the sewers killing rats. Can they find a way to rescue her?
My Review: Cinnamon Moon is a great Historical Fiction Story for Middle Grade readers. It is based on an event that I did not even know about, The Peshtigo Wisconsin Fire as well as the Chicago Fire. Ailis and her brother Quinn were moved to Chicago from the small town of Peshtigo, Wisconsin after a fire killed their parents and young sister. A friend of their fathers, Mr. Olsen, set them up in a boarding house there. Unfortunately, he was not aware that Miss Franny, the person who ran the boarding house, treated them as slaves. They met another young orphan named Nettie and got quite close to her. Ailis and Quinn want a better life, so Ailis takes a job with a German woman, Ida, in a millinery shop, and Quinn starts busking with his violin, making a lot more money that he thought possible. When Nettie goes missing, the two try to investigate, and uncover a plot to use very young children to help keep down the rat population. Can they rescue her from this life? Will they be able to move into a place of their own?
The characters were wonderful. Ailis and Quinn tried to make the most of the situation they were in. Ailis was smart, resourceful, loyal and had a strong will. She used what she could (Mr. Olsen, Sam, her work ethic) to make their life better. Quinn, was smart and talented. Unfortunately he was also stubborn. With his wonderful musical talent that he inherited from his father, he was able to help both himself and his sister much more than the thought he could. The siblings never give up on Nettie. That loyalty and love is also apparent when they are reminiscing about their family. Ida, the milliner who took Ailis under her wing, was a wonderful person. Her support of Ailis, Quinn and Nettie was a joy. She owed these children nothing, but she gave them everything she could. After all the trouble they went through, the story had a happy ending. It seemed to come quickly, but considering this book is for young readers, ages 9 to 12, it was nicely done. The plot was built up and you would be rooting for the children. The ending was definitely satisfactory, with the heroes/heroines coming out on the bright side and with some of the villians getting their due. A great book for a class or school library. It may lead some children into investigating this time in history as well as getting them interested in more historical fiction. The publisher generously provided me with a copy of this book via Netgalley.