Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

A Night Visitor

Day in and day out, week after week, month after month and year after year, the business of life can become a burden.  The stress of always having something to do and never getting everything done is difficult to bear.  You can't help but wonder what it would be like to be relieved of the have-to requirements.

To regain the ability to do as you choose is a tantalizing prospect.  Moon (Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 17, 2018) authorial debut of illustrator Alison Oliver explores the idea of rediscovering that which is lost.  We all have an essential part of us longing to be free.

Every day, Moon walked home
from school and thought about
the day.

Moon always had a to-do list and she always did everything on that list but she did think about not doing everything on that list.  There was a part of her that wanted to abandon those tasks.  There was a part of her wanting to run wild.  The problem was Moon didn't know how to run wild.

During the night Moon looked out her window as a shooting star arced across the darkened sky.  She left the comfort of her room to find more shooting stars.  To her surprise a mystery lay at her feet.  It was paw prints.  They belonged to a wolf!

The wolf invited Moon to climb on its back.  They swiftly moved through the night toward the Great Forest. There, in a clearing, was Wolf's pack.  Moon knew she had found those who could teach her to run wild.

With each instruction Moon felt herself changing.  As the final lesson is observed Moon knew peace.  She was one with Wolf, the forest creatures, the Great Forest and the night.  A howl, not from a wolf, broke the silence.  When Moon went to school the next day, her transformation was evident.  It was contagious.

Students (and adults as well) will be readily able to identify with Moon's thoughts as Alison Oliver begins this story.  Her short contemplative sentences and questions connect to us. When Moon encounters the paw prints, Alison heightens the suspense with three single words.  You can feel the tension mounting which makes the next two page turns even more exciting.  As Moon learns from the wolves, the single phrases allow readers to imagine they are participating with Moon in the Great Forest.  We are altered too.  Here is a passage.

The breeze blew through Moon's hair.
The chirping of the insects seemed to grow quiet.
The ocean of stars felt not so far away.

What readers notice first on the opened dust jacket is the color palette.  The swirl of nighttime blue, purple and black with the dusting of stars provides a tranquil background.  This background on the front crosses the spine to the back to complete the scene.  The text for the title is yet another shade of blue with the first letter o cleverly shown as a sliver of the moon.  The nighttime sky allows for the white and gray of Wolf, the white of Moon's attire and her purple skin to stand apart.  The title text, Moon and Wolf are varnished.

The book case is the same shade of purple as Moon's skin.  The texture is rough to the touch.  On the front a black outline of Moon kneeling next to Wolf and Wolf sitting next to Moon conveys their relationship.  Wolf is resting his chin on Moon's head.  The opening and closing endpapers are done in the same shade of blue (teal) as used for the title text.  Paw prints stretch along the bottom from one edge to the other.

On the initial title page, on a canvas of white, the word Moon is entwined in delicate leaves and tiny purple flowers.  The formal title page spans across two pages.  Moon is enlarged.  Along the bottom exquisite leaves and flowers provide a wide border.

Rendered in watercolor, brush pen, charcoal, and potato stamp, and assembled digitally the illustrations are a soothing blend of soft and bold.  Some of the pictures are placed on single pages others span two pages and smaller visuals are grouped together on a single page.  Alison Oliver alters her point of view to accentuate her text.  Moon's large eyes and other facial features as well as those on the wolves convey every mood. 

One of my many favorite pictures covers two pages.  The canvas is a mix of night sky, grass and flowers in the clearing.  A crescent moon hangs in the upper left-hand corner.  The four wolves in the pack in darker gray are placed toward the top of the two pages with the smallest wolf toward the edge of the right side in the middle.  Wolf is in the center of the left side.  Moon is toward the bottom in the center of the right side.  All of them have their faces raised and are howling.  You can't help but wish you were there with them.

This marvelous book is an invitation for us to look to nature to remember who we are and to realize the best life has to offer us.  Moon written and illustrated by Alison Oliver will have readers howling during and after story time.  I believe this would pair wonderfully with Matthew Cordell's Caldecott Medal title, Wolf In The Snow (Feiwel and Friends, an imprint of Macmillan, January 3, 2017).  You will want to have a copy of Moon on both your professional and personal book shelves. 

To learn more about Alison Oliver and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  She maintains an account on Instagram.  The cover reveal for this book was hosted by author and teacher librarian Carter Higgins on her site, Design Of The Picture Book.  Alison wrote a post, Stay Wild, at the Nerdy Book Club.  Yesterday on Twitter using the hashtag #howtowolf @HMHKids announced they are giving away ten signed posters promoting Moon until May 1, 2018 for those in the United States only.

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