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The Children’s Book Review
Written by Scott Jarol
Age Range: 8-12
Paperback: 166 pages
Publisher: Scott Jarol, Author (May 1, 2020)
What to expect: Retro-futuristic, Engineering, Elements, and Teamwork
Set in an early era, Scott Jarol’s Ethan’s Moon Tower is a retro-futuristic middle-grade novel that explores themes of tension and the alienating and empowering effects that new concepts can have on a society that is not ready to embrace them.
Surrounded by dust, dirt and clouds that pass by without leaving a drop of rain, the villagers are plagued by severe drought and are abandoning their homes one by one. Desperate to find water and with nowhere else to turn, young Ethan looks to the moon—a constant feature in the sky always peering over his shoulder. “Everything needed by every person on earth depended on gifts from the sky. Yet, as far as Ethan knew, no people had ever been there.” He decides to build a tower that will surely reach the moon—hopefully, relief can be found in the heavens. Talia, a newcomer, stays in Ethan’s barn while her dad’s wagon awaits repairs. She shares some smart engineering suggestions with Ethan that allow for a more robust structure that soon becomes a symbol of hope for the villagers—all except for grumbly, older Mr. Withers, who may have the wherewithal to bring the tower and their dreams crashing down.
The characters (including a boy and his dog) and setting (complete with dusty roads traveled by horse-drawn wagons) provide a nostalgic Americana feel while offering a pop of retro-futurism originality with the invention of the tower itself. There are solid STEM offerings weaved into the storyline with real-life examples of engineering, hydrology, and mentions of historical figures, such as Archimedes. Jarol has created a well-paced, carefully plotted novel in which time and place come through beautifully in his descriptive prose:
“In the distance, a brown plume stretched out along the horizon. Although he couldn’t yet make out the shape of the buckboard or draft horse or Father driving, their route was marked by the dust the wagon wheels churned into the air. Father would be home within an hour, with a load of fresh food—maybe even some apples.”
Ethan’s Moon Tower is an engrossing novel that would appeal to engineer, inventor, and astronomer types, as well as readers who enjoy rich settings and danger that comes in the form of wild dust storms and feuding neighbors.
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About the Author
Scott Jarol began college as a biochemistry major and graduated with a degree in English Literature. To the dismay of his professors, despite his shift from the sciences to the humanities, he preferred the prophetic works of Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke over those of Shakespeare and Wordsworth. All this finally made sense when he combined his scientific and literary interests to write stories about possible pasts and futures.
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