I love children's literature and read along with my kids. We picked this up from the library's "new book" section and my daughter (entering sixth grade) said she couldn't get into it (very unusual for her), so I had a go.
The protagonist here is Jane, a teen with 3 younger siblings, who is traveling with her poet mother and unconventional stepfather Ned after he has been fired from his job as a French teacher (he can't speak French). They set out from Canada to Massachusetts but get seriously sidetracked after ending up with a bag of illegally-obtained money left for Ned by his flaky magician brother. Jane ruminates on who her father might be, and who the fathers of each of her siblings might be, based on family histories of mental illness. She observes the interactions of Ned with his mother and three sisters, none of whom he has had any contact with in over 20 years. Two significant characters, at the end of the book, turn out to be untrustworthy in major ways.
Are the uncertainty, instability, and disordered family relationships supposed to appeal to pre-teens who are searching for identity? The themes here seemed much more suited to an adult novel. The characters, eccentric as they are, were well drawn and engaging, but I'm glad my daughter missed this one.
I like Polly Horvath, and her books are always worthwhile, but, boy, she can be all over the place. "Everything on a Waffle" is the most coherent and optimistic of the books I know; "Trolls" is the saddest; "Corps of the Bare-Boned Plane" has the least compelling premise. But this one, "Northward to the Moon" is very shaggy, very meandering, and ultimately sort of pointless. I sure wouldn't start with this if I were trying Horvath for the first time.
On the other hand, if you are happy with occasionally nicely turned phrases, and tolerant of elliptical plotting, this book has its rewards.