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SUNDAY, JULY 30, 2006
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ALABAMA MOON. By Watt Key. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 304 pages, $16, hardcover.
Boy, 10, who is left in Alabama wilds learns how to trust

By Dawn McNutt
Special to THE DAILY

I picked this book up from THE DAILY on a Tuesday morning with the intention of reading a few chapters on the hammock while the children played in the pool. The next time I looked up I had a nasty sunburn and my three children were asking what was for dinner. I continued reading far into the night, after everyone was in bed. Unable to stop myself or even consider the fact that my 4-year-old is usually up by 6 a.m., I lost myself once again in this beautifully written novel until the very end.

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The book is now in the hands of my 11-year-old son who hasn't been seen for the last day or so, except at mealtimes, with a surprisingly dog-eared book that is less than a week old.

"Alabama Moon" is the debut novel from South Alabama author Watt Key. In this mesmerizing and completely enthralling coming-of-age story, 10-year-old Moon Blake learns how to survive on his own after his beloved father, "Pap," dies, leaving him to fend for himself in the forests of Alabama.

The two of them have lived completely isolated and self-sufficient in a handmade shelter for the last nine years. Along with all his wilderness and survival skills passed on from his father, Moon has also been taught to trust no one and fear the outside world. These two lessons are difficult to uphold after Pap's death and Moon's promise to him to go to Alaska where he will find others like himself living off the land.

When fate intervenes and Moon finds himself in circumstances beyond his control, he must come face to face with a world he does not understand while trying to grasp the idea of what it means to trust someone. With the help of his two new best friends, Hal and Kit, he attempts to find his place in this world while finding out that maybe everything his father told him wasn't the truth and that sometimes you do have to depend on other people whether you want to or not.

As Moon's journey takes him to a group home, jail and back to the forest again, he begins to learn that human beings are a wonderfully flawed group and some can be trusted while others simply cannot. Sometimes those with the best of intentions fall short, while others may just surprise you in the end.

Moon endures one hardship after another and some of life's toughest lessons. The reader can't help but want this extremely appealing character to succeed and find happiness.

While this book is listed at ages 10-14, I daresay many adults will find is as compelling and enthralling as any child.

The extensive research that author Watt Key performed in order to accurately portray the skills and knowledge necessary to live in an isolated forest year round will also have many outdoor enthusiasts admiring this novel as well.

I can't recommend "Alabama Moon" enough. Read it with your child or give it to him or her as a gift. You won't regret it.

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