Friday, May 11, 2012

Super Books for a Super Moon

In honor of that great moon on the fifth of May, I thought I'd review my shelves of books and find a few volumes dedicated to the orb. 

The Man in the Moon, by William Joyce, is the first picture book in the Guardians of Childhood series.  Complex and absolutely gloriously illustrated, it is the story of how the Man in the Moon and the rest of the Guardians came to be.

When the MiM was a child, his ship, the Moon Clipper, was attacked by the King of Nightmares.  MiM's parents are gone, and his ship is now only a damaged moon circling a small blue and green planet named Earth.

While in orbit around the Earth, our MiM discovers that Earth is filled with children - sometimes their balloons float to him filled with their wishes and dreams.  Sometimes they are filled with fears, of the night, of bullies, of snakes; sometimes a child just needs soothing to relieve them of their nightmares.

MiM finds grand and magical people from all over the world to help in his quest to keep the children at ease:  A toy maker, a rabbit to make them eggs, a fairy to leave prizes under their pillows, a "sleepy little fellow ...who seemed to know all there was to know about dreams", and a lady to tell them stories.  The children, though, are still afraid of the dark!  Ah, but The Man in the Moon has a remedy for that and "the night is never again as dark".

And so it begins.  This is a wonderful beginning to a whole series of books about the Guardians who watch over all the children of Earth.  I'm really looking forward to Mother Goose.  Ages 5 and up.  It's a little scary.  (Atheneum.  $17.99.  Available now.)

I love The Nightgown of the Sullen Moon, by Nancy Willard, illustrated by David McPhail.  It's dreamy and poetic, it's quiet.  His artwork is perfect for dawn and dusk, perfect for designing just the right nightgown for a moon longing for something new and pretty to wear on her special birthday.  Nancy has just the right tone for a night-time book about why the moon is sometimes not in the sky.

It begins, "The nightgown started it all.  It belonged to Ellen Fitzpatrick, who took the clean laundry off the line for her mother and left her own nightgown, blue flannel and stitched with stars, shining, dancing, on the billionth birthnight of the full moon."  Well, it's obvious that the moon simply must have a new nightgown and down she comes, passing a church, a laundry, taverns (with customers being tossed out, passed out, making out), making her way to the nightgown shop where she finds the perfect one.

She loves it so much, she wears it all the time; it covers her light so people can't see the road to walk or the owls to avoid trees.  The sun implores her to take the nightgown back, to shine again.  She promises to do so, but, "the moon's promises, what are they worth?"  So, she takes off the gown and puts it in a drawer at the back of the sky and on the nights when the sky is dark, you know where she is:  trying the gown on, dreaming she is sleeping under the softest quilt on earth.  Ages 5 and up.

This book is out of print, now, and I must have ordered one of the very last ones back in 1983 or so.  Harcourt (back when it was Harcourt Brace Jovanovich) published it.  I hope you can find a copy somewhere.  I have photographed the cover, I'll see about doing one of the pages, too, and Messrs. H B and J, forgive me for sharing such a beautiful book without the proper copyright stuff.

Night of the Moon, by Hena Khan and illustrated by local Julie Paschkis, is a Muslim holiday story about Ramadan.  I always enjoy learning about holidays and the whys and wherefores surrounding them.  I am also pretty intrigued by the adoption of those holidays by the people who aren't born into the culture (like Cinco de Mayo; we never celebrated Cinco de Mayo when I was young, didn't even know it was a holiday except for its being my birthday.  Now, no matter where you go, there's a party happening somewhere on May 5).  Ramadan seems like a particularly good holiday to know about as it seems to be all about doing good in the world and committing charitable acts.

This lovely book is about a young Pakistani-American girl who is celebrating Ramadan with her family and her school. Yasmeen's mother comes to her room to read to her and to show her a very special moon, a tiny little crescent which means it is a new month in the Islamic calendar.  It is also the beginning of the month of Ramadan which will last until the next little crescent of moon shows. 

Without being didactic and using few words to get the concepts across, we watch Yasmeen as her family fasts and remembers to be grateful for the food they have, to share with others, to be thankful for beautiful things, all connected to the changing phases of the moon.

I really like that these lunar holidays, like Easter, connect us to the physical world, gets us back to having to take note of the earth and the skies.

 Ms. Khan and Ms. Paschkis do a wonderful job of connecting the modern practices of Ramadan with its ancient roots.  There are author's notes (my favorite part of a book like this) and a glossary in the back.  Ages 6 and up.  (Chronicle Books.  $16.99.  Available now.)

Moonshot:  The Flight of Apollo 11, by Brian Floca is amazing.  It is a book written in poetry about the crew of Apollo 11's journey to the moon.  The endpages and jacket are packed with information while the innards are a much quieter, sparer, look at what it takes to get to the moon and back.  Clean and spare artwork lends urgency to the flight.  The text, the poetry, is very well done and the way it's written encourages you to read it aloud in a certain way.  I think it's one of the best books for younger readers about the subject, it's simple in a very complicated way.  I love the way Mr. Floca uses every little piece of the book, too, with diagrams of the ship on the front endpages and a lot of information about the Apollo missions on the back endpapages.  Ages 5 and up.  (Atheneum.  $17.99.  Available now.)

A couple of my favorite YA books featuring the moon are Cinder, by Tacoma author Marissa Meyer, and Life as We Knew It, by Susan Beth PfefferCinder features a lunar colony that has some especially interesting skills and Life as We Knew It is about what happens when the moon is knocked closer to the earth by a comet.  Both books are absolutely brilliant and I especially liked the science in LAWKI about what would happen to the earth if the moon wasn't where it's always been.  I know that, when the apocalypse comes, I'll be stocking up on Tampax and Progresso soups.  

So, there you have it, some really great selections for your lunar collection.  Enjoy!

1 comment:

  1. Rene', what a lovely post of lunar books. I enjoyed meeting you today at University Books. I hope that you can join us on Tuesday afternoon for our author visit. I'm sad that The Nightgown of the Sullen Moon is out of print. And now, I'm off to request some books from KCLS.