In 2019 we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of a human taking his first steps on the Moon, but our neighbour has held fascination for us from time immemorial. These books contain stories and facts about our relationship with the moon which is both familiar and mysterious.
Tomi Ungerer, Phaidon,9780714855981, £14.95hbk
Moon Man crash lands on Earth and is imprisoned by the authorities who fear his strangeness. His unique qualities (ie the ability to wax and wane) enable him to escape and he leads a fugitive existence until he meets Doktor van der Dunkel who builds a rocket so he can return home to his ‘shimmering seat in space’. Moon Man, as portrayed in Tomi Ungerer’s illustrations, is a very sympathetic character and this picture book could lead to fruitful discussions about prejudice and people’s fear of the unknown. Moon Man is included in Tomi Ungerer: A Treasury of 8 Books (Phaidon, 9780714872858, £35.00).
Man on the Moon (day in the life of Bob)
Simon Bartram, Templar, 9781840114911, £6.99pbk
It’s Bob’s job to keep the Moon clean and tidy. He also welcomes tourist spaceships and gives guided tours. Bob’s daily routine is described in a matter of fact tone, and his disbelief in aliens is frequently referred to. However, the detailed, period pictures, tell a different story and readers will soon spot the little green men lurking in the background. Bob has further lunar adventures, including Bob and the Moontree Mystery (Templar, 978-1848777491, £6.99pbk).
The Way Back Home
Oliver Jeffers, HarperCollins, 9780007182329, £6.99pbk
A delightful story about an Earth boy and a Martian who both crash land on the moon. They co-operate to find solutions so that they can both return to their homes in their respective craft. The joke of it is, the Earth boy has to return home by other means to collect the things they need to effect the repairs and then return to the moon to help his new friend.
Britta Teckentrup, text by Patricia Hegarty, Little Tiger, 9781848698673, £7.99pbk
Britta Teckentrup’s illustrations capture beautifully how the moon is a companion for creatures and plant life around the world, shining down on them wherever they may be, from woodland to desert to ocean, from jungle to grassland to mountainside. A cut-out feature on every spread demonstrates the gradual waxing and waning of the moon. The complementary text is in rhyming couplets and is soothing to read aloud.
How to Be on the Moon
Viviane Schwarz, Walker, 9781406379921, £11.99hbk
Anna and Crocodile make a great team. Anna has ambitions which she is determined to fulfil while Crocodile is cautious. Anna wants to go to the moon and will brook no argument from Crocodile who suggests several obstacles. Together they plan their trip – while Anna builds the rocket, Crocodile makes the all-important sandwiches. When they land on the moon they look up at the Earth and ponder its beauty and its distance before they embark on the journey home.
The Darkest Dark
Chris Hadfield and Kate Fillion, illustrators The Fan Brothers, Macmillan, 9781529013610 £6.99pbk
A boy who has dreams of becoming an astronaut overcomes his night-time fears once his mind is opened after watching the Apollo 11 moon landing on TV with his neighbours and he can see ‘the power and mystery and velvety black beauty of the dark’. The illustrations include visual reference to Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are and, like Max, Chris goes on an imaginative journey which in his case turns out to be lifechanging. The real Chris Hadfield was inspired to become an astronaut after seeing the first moon landing and there is biographical information about him at the end of book, plus photos including one with Albert, the charming pug dog who appears in the story!
Moonstruck! Poems about Our Moon
Roger Stevens (editor), illustrator Ed Boxall, Otter-Barry Books, 9781910959657, £6.99pbk
All phases and faces of the moon are covered in this poetry collection inspired by our nearest neighbouring heavenly body. Poets from the past such as Emily Brontë and Robert Louis Stevenson are included although the emphasis is on the fresh and new from contemporary poets such as Grace Nichols, Rachel Rooney and Jay Hulme and some excellent imagery from child poets Harshita Das and Sam Decie. The poems take a range of forms. Philip Waddell and Roger Stevens list ‘Moony Names’, James Carter shapes how ‘The Moon Speaks!’ and Tony Mitton contributes ‘Three Short Poems’ in the forms of a haiku, a tanka and a cinquain. And did you know ‘The First Woman on the Moon’ was called Mabel Greensmith’?!
The Usborne Book of the Moon
Laura Cowan, illustrator Diana Toledano, designer Zoe Wray, Usborne, 9781474950848, £12.99hbk
This book begins with questions children may have about the moon and tracks our link with it from tales told about it, through astronomers’ observations, to humans’ physical exploration. The sparkling moon that shines out from the cover and the careful design means that you can read it as a chronological narrative or dip in as you browse and something catches your eye. This may be the Finnish legend of how the eggs of a giant bird cracked and the whites became the moon and stars, and the yolk became the sun. Or the introduction to Mariam al-Asturlabi who made an astrolabe in Syria more than a thousand years ago. Or the comic strip outlining the Apollo 11 landing.
Usborne has also published a board book with lift-the-flaps for younger questioners: What is the Moon? by Katie Daynes, illustrated by Marta Álvarez Miguéns (9781474948210, £7.99hbk).
Hannah Pang, illustrator Thomas Hegbrook, 360 degrees, 9781848577381, £16.99hbk
A cornucopia of facts and fancies about the moon and our relationship with it. Included are its possible effects on human and animal behaviour, folklore and tales, its influence on literature and the arts as well as information about people’s endeavours at exploration. Thomas Hegbrook’s shadowy illustrations accentuate the mystery the moon has held for humankind.
When We Walked on the Moon
David Long & Sam Kalda, Wide Eyed Editions, 9781786030917, £12.99hbk
All seven of the Apollo missions to the moon are given equal weight in this account which gives insights into the astronauts’ personal experiences as well as describing the voyages, the technology and what they discovered. A page is devoted to each of the crews from Apollo 11 to Apollo 17. The illustrations have a retro feel in keeping with the time period when these events took place.
Ann Lazim is Literature and Library Development Manager at the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education in London.