HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Honk the Moose
Author: Phil Stong
Illustrator: Kurt Wiese
Publisher: Trellis Publishing Inc., republished 2001
Language level: 2 (the euphemism “gee” occurs a few times)
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 8 – 12
Rating: ***** 5 stars
(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Stong, Phil. Honk the Moose (published in 1935 by Dodd Mead and Company, rights now owned by the Harold Matson Company Inc., 276 5th Ave., New York City, NY 10001; republished in 2001 by Trellis Publishing Inc.). Waino Karkinen and Ivar Ketonen, two ten year old boys, live with their Finnish immigrant families in the mining town of Birora, MN. One winter day, when they had returned from skiing and hunting in the hills of the Misabi Iron Range, they go into the livery stable of Ivar’s father, who is also a veterinarian, to oil their skis, and find a sad, thin, hungry moose. They name the moose Honk from the sound that it makes. The boys tell Mr. Ketonen, who doesn’t believe it—until he sees it. Ivar’s father tells the town policeman, Frank Ryan, who doesn’t believe it either—until he sees it. Mr. Ryan tells the mayor, Nels Olavsson, and he too doesn’t believe it—until…..
Nor does the town council, but meanwhile the moose is eating all of the expensive hay for the horses in the livery stable, and nearly everyone, except Ivar, Waino, and their friend Jim Barry, think that Honk needs to be disposed of. What happens to the poor moose? Will he be shot? Can he be run out of town? Based on a true story that took place prior to 1919 in the real town of Biwabik, MN, Honk the Moose was a 1936 Newbery Honor Book, is listed on Cattermole’s 100 Best Children’s Books of the 20th Century, and in 1970 won the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award. Author Phil Stong became famous in l932 with his Iowa classic, State Fair, which went on to become a smash hit Broadway musical by Rogers and Hammerstein. This delightful children’s classic is more than just a picture book. It is a chapter book, more for younger readers, but humorous enough to be a fun story for older ones too.
One critic complained about “the mature content” of how everyone keeps saying they should shoot the moose and are waving guns around, and the racism such as “getting angrier than a Chinaman.” Give me a break! This charming story, that truly has the feel of a different era, would be very fun as a read-aloud not only for elementary students but also for children of all ages, especially as the efforts to remove Honk escalates in the town, with each new person not believing that the moose really exists. Also, it helps teach so much to young people, such as respect the animals of the wild and the lives of Finnish immigrants in that area. Honk the Moose is a short, fast read that is exciting and adventuresome with engaging and wonderful Illustrations.