May 29, 2023

Dear Mothman

By Robin Gow
Review by
As it honors all parts of the queer experience, this book will make readers feel seen and leave their hearts full.
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Noah doesn’t know what to do since his best friend, Lewis, died in a car crash—not that anybody else knew Lewis by that name. Like Lewis, Noah is transgender, but it was a secret they kept just between them, and with Lewis gone, Noah can’t talk about his feelings with anybody . . . except, maybe, Mothman. 

Lewis believed in the cryptid, a humanoid figure with enormous wings first spotted in West Virginia in 1966, but Noah didn’t. Now Noah has come up with the perfect way to honor Lewis’ memory: He’s going to prove that Mothman is real for the sixth-grade science fair. He sets up an old camera to record potential appearances, researches Mothman sightings near his Pennsylvania town and writes letters to Mothman to try and get to know him better. But as Noah starts to think he understands a little of what it means to be a monster, he finds his efforts increasingly mocked by his classmates—except for three new friends who want to help. If Noah is brave enough to trust them with the truest parts of himself, maybe Mothman will show his face—or maybe Noah will find the strength to go looking for Mothman himself.

Robin Gow’s novel in verse is destined to join the growing ranks of queer children’s literature classics. Told through Noah’s thoughts and notes to Mothman, Dear Mothman is an affirming ode to queerness and a haunting, beautiful story about what it means to be different.

Noah’s fascination with Mothman begins as a desperate attempt to remain connected to the only person who truly understood him, but it comes to represent what it means to be a creature hiding in the world. Through his project, Noah finds the strength to move beyond a passive existence and do what Mothman cannot: show himself to the world. “What can I do / to show them what Mothman is like? / What I am really like?” Noah wonders. “Then, do I really want to show my class everything? // To show them everything / not just about Mothman / but what being a monster means— / how it’s like being a queer person? / That I’m a queer person. // The beauty of the unknown darkness / and wild magic / of a creature / so few people get to see.”

Queer and neurodivergent childhood experiences deepen this stunning exploration of identity. Noah’s new friends role-play as wolves on the playground despite being “too old” for such activities. Noah worries about his friends judging his emotionally overloaded outbursts and frets that they won’t want to hang out with him anymore. The whole group struggles to explain to their parents how differently they feel from the other children in their class—and how differently they feel from their parents.

Dear Mothman offers a beautiful and moving glimpse into the world of a child who deserves understanding and appreciation, but far more importantly, it’s a breath of fresh air for any queer reader. Noah’s journey honors all parts of the queer experience, regardless of how public that experience may be. This is a book that will make readers feel seen and, ultimately, leave their hearts full.

Read our interview with Robin Gow, who explores grief, queer identity and one of North America’s most beloved cryptids in Dear Mothman.

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Dear Mothman

Dear Mothman

By Robin Gow
ISBN 9781419764400

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