Middle Grade at Heart Writer’s Toolbox: The Evocative Use of White Space in THE MOON WITHIN by Aida Salazar

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Our May book club pick for Middle Grade at Heart is Aida Salazar’s beautiful debut, The Moon Within. Here’s a bit about the book:

Celi Rivera’s life swirls with questions. About her changing body. Her first attraction to a boy. And her best friend’s exploration of what it means to be genderfluid.

But most of all, her mother’s insistence she have a moon ceremony when her first period arrives. It’s an ancestral Mexica ritual that Mima and her community have reclaimed, but Celi promises she will NOT be participating. Can she find the power within herself to take a stand for who she wants to be?

The Moon Within is a dazzling story told with the sensitivity, humor, and brilliant verse of debut talent Aida Salazar, and it received four starred reviews.

We’re so excited to feature this lovely, empowering book! The Moon Within is a novel in verse, which means the narrative is composed of free verse poems that join together to create scenes. Verse novelists can use all sorts of evocative poetic techniques. One technique that Aida Salazar employs is playing around with white space. Let’s take a look at a poem that makes especially effective use of white space.

In this poem-scene, the main character, Celi, is at the movies with Iván, an older boy she likes. He begins to ask her a question and stops himself, and she wonders if he wanted to ask if she would be allowed to have a boyfriend. Then the thought that goes through Celi’s head is, “What would it be like to be his girlfriend?” But take a look at how that thought is set out on the page:

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What occurs to you as you look at the shape of that thought?

Does it mimic the shape and feel of “tumbling like weeds?” Do you have to stop and linger on the words, spending extra time to puzzle out what they say? Does that extra time give the thought extra weight? Does the white space mirror Celi’s emotions in some way? Does anything else occur to you?

Which other poems throughout the novel use white space in striking ways? Be on the lookout as you read, and Tweet us @mgatheart to let us know what you find!

And if you’d like to learn more about how verse novelists can use white space and other poetic techniques, check out this fabulous, comprehensive post by verse novelist Cordelia Jensen.

Our newsletter about The Moon Within will go out on Monday, May 20th, and mark your calendars for our Twitter chat about the book: Tuesday, May 28th at 8pm EST, using the hashtag #mgbookclub!