Lumberjanes: The Moon Is Up

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for Lumberjanes: Unicorn Power!. You can read my review of this novel [here].

Lumberjanes: The Moon is Up was written by Mariko Tamaki and first published in 2018. It follows on directly from where the first novel of the series – Lumberjanes: Unicorn Power! (2017) – left off, as the girls encounter a mysterious creature in the forest. The series is a spin-off of the award winning Lumberjanes comic and is aimed at middle grade readers.

April, Mal, Molly, Ripley and Jo are about to take part in the camp’s first ever Galaxy Wars. The series of events are designed to test each cabin’s intelligence and teamwork as they battle win a unique badge and a spot in the Lumberjanes hall of fame. However, they will have their work cut out for them. Their rivals in Zodiac cabin also have their heart set on the prize and are determined to win.

However, one of the Roanoke scouts does not have her heart in the game. Jo has recently received a letter that invites her to take part in a special research programme, but if she accepts she will have to leave the camp. The experience would be life-changing, but she’s not sure how she can break the subject of leaving with her BFF, April.

The letter isn’t the only thing that is troubling Jo. She still isn’t sure whether or not she dreamed seeing an odd spacecraft land in the woods. Things soon start to get weird around the camp as their copious supplies of cheese begin to mysteriously disappear. It’s not long before the Lumberjanes find the culprit but discover that she has problems of her own. Will the Lumberjanes help their new friend and win the contest, and is this the last adventure that they will have together?

Before I begin, I just want to emphasise that The Moon is Up does pick up exactly from the vague cliff-hanger at the end of Unicorn Power! where Jo sees the spaceship land. Because of this I would definitely recommend reading the novels in sequence to fully appreciate what’s going on.

However, more than this, I’d also advise reading a few of the comic books before you give the novels a try. Unlike some of the other recent novel adaptions that I’ve reviewed – such as the fantastic The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl series – the Lumberjanes novels don’t do a fantastic job of introducing the characters and sometimes even contain direct references to the things that happened in the comics. An example of this is the odd scene in which Bearwoman turns up to talk with Rosie, a part that will have no significance to the reader at all unless they are already familiar with Bearwoman from the comics.

With that out of the way, let’s take a look at the novel itself. It’s difficult for me to say whether or not this novel is actively better than Unicorn Power!. While it does have some areas where it felt stronger, the novel did still have a few problems. To begin with the positive, I did feel like the plot of The Moon Is Up flowed a lot better. While the previous instalment started out well, it did seem to lose its momentum around the middle. The Galaxy Wars event was pretty daft (and its rules were sometimes decidedly unclear) but it was a fun way to give the plot some focus and provided a decent moral about the importance of making time to have fun with friends.

The structure of the novel was also a bit less clumsy this time. While the focus did still jump between characters at times, it didn’t feel as though it did this as frequently as it did in Unicorn Power!. This was mainly because this novel is mostly centred around Jo and so did, for the large part, follow what she was doing at any given time. Unfortunately, the novel did still contain some of the more annoying problems that I noted in Unicorn Power!. The biggest of these, in my opinion, is the way that the girls frequent yell out the names of famous women instead of swear words. This is a stylistic choice in the comic but is just jarring in the story. The book never really makes clear that this is what Lumberjanes are doing, making the frequent exclamations quite confusing.

I also wasn’t really a fan of the ending of the story. The true villain of this book does not appear until the climax and her defeat was pretty unfair. I won’t spoil it here but the climax culminates in a battle of wits and I did feel that the girls cheated on this rather wholeheartedly. If I had been the villain, I don’t think I’d have taken it so well. The novel also once again has a bit of an open ending. While it does wrap up this little adventure, its final sting makes quite clear where this series will go in its inevitable sequel.

In terms of characterisation, I did feel that the novel was more effective this time. While it does still name drop a number of characters from the comics (such as Seafarin’ Karen), it also provides a nice little character arc for Jo. In this, it really does do a good job of showing her conflict, as well as making clear that her fears were largely unfounded. Her story arc carried a nice moral as it showed the importance of talking through your troubles with a friend, even if you think that they will not understand.

However, because of this increased focus on Jo, the rest of the characters don’t fair so well and their subplots tend to fall flat. The worst of these is probably Mal’s failure to gain a musical badge, which is largely resolved off-page. I was also still annoyed at the fact that the novel doesn’t do anything to draw attention to the diversity of the characters. The comic not only contains a number of people of colour (Mal, Jo, Jen and Ripley) but also a lesbian couple (Mal and Molly) and a transgender girl (Jo). I really felt that the novel needed to spell this out to the reader a little better as these aren’t really obvious in this story unless you’re actively looking for them. As Lumberjane’s diverse cast is one of its biggest draws, it seems a shame to ignore that aspect for the novels.

Anyhow, I think that about sums it up. Lumberjanes: The Moon Is Up is not perfect by any means, but I did think that it was certainly a more engaging story than is prequel. I really look forward to seeing what Tamaki will do with the next instalment as I have high hopes that it will keep getting better and better.

Lumberjanes: The Moon Is Up can be purchased as a Hardback and eBook on

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Lumberjanes: The Good Egg | Arkham Reviews
  2. Trackback: Lumberjanes: Ghost Cabin | Arkham Reviews

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