CM . . .
. Volume XXII Number 16. . . .December 18, 2015
Finding Monkey Moon.
Elizabeth Pulford. Illustrated by Kate Wilkinson.
Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press (Distributed in Canada by Penguin Random House Canada), 2015.
32 pp., hardcover, $19.00.
Preschool-grade 1 / Ages 3-6.
Review by Mę-Linh Lę.
*** / 4
Michael’s lips trembled. Where was Monkey Moon? What had happened to him?
He put his hands to his mouth and shouted as loud as he could, one last time. “Monkey Moon!”
His cry carried through the darkness and fell into the folds of quiet, but still there wasn’t a single sound, not even the tiniest whisper.
“Monkey’s Moon’s gone,” he said to Dad.
Finding Monkey Moon follows Michael and his dad in their search for the title character - a beloved stuffed animal that has been misplaced. Once bedtime arrives and Monkey Moon is nowhere to be found at home, Michael and his dad head out into the darkening fall night to search in a nearby park. As the pair bundles up in warm clothing and trudges down dimly lit streets, under tree-covered pathways, past sleepy animals, and through the bushes searching for Monkey Moon, readers can take comfort in the fact that they are tucked away in a warm and cozy room while reading the book.
The plot of a child looking for a lost stuffed animal will ring true for any parent who has frantically searched for a misplaced (and in every way irreplaceable) toy. In fact, the only part of the story that requires a suspension of belief – when the dad raised no objection to his son’s rushing out of the house into the night to search for Monkey Moon – can almost be understood as the toy MUST, of course, be found. Children will love the bravery of the young boy who seems unafraid of the dark as he searches frantically for his toy.
The author, Elizabeth Pulford, uses fairly straightforward dialogue for Michael and his dad, mostly limiting it to Michael’s yelling out for Monkey Moon. She does well when describing the nighttime sights and sounds, including the abandoned play areas, hooting owls, and nesting animals. The search for Monkey Moon takes up the majority of the book - which works very well. The actual finding of Monkey Moon, however, feels somewhat abrupt and happens mostly by pure luck. Finally, an admittedly superficial point is the fact that Michael and Monkey Moon are described twice in the book as going ‘hippity hop hippity hop’, which is a bit of an odd descriptor for a monkey. That wording would have better captured a stuffed rabbit that was lost.
It is Kate Wilkinson, a first-time children’s book illustrator, who steals the show. Her illustrations, done with acrylic paint, perfectly capture the atmosphere of the cold and gloomy fall. Many of the outdoor park scenes show Michael and his dad surrounded by large patches of darkness which only makes the reader focus more tightly on Michael and his dad’s search. The images of naked branches and scattered piles of fallen leaves perfectly evoke the changing of the seasons.
Finding Monkey Moon is a beautifully illustrated children’s book with a storyline that, while not particularly exciting, does a lovely job of conveying the sense of loss that Michael feels as he searches for his lost stuffed animal. Its nighttime images and thoughtful story will appeal to parents as that perfect “last book before bed”. Children will love the story of a brave boy going on an adventure with a parent to a park after hours, and the ultimate reunion between Michael and Monkey Moon will send them happily off to bed.
Mę-Linh Lę is a health sciences librarian at the University of Manitoba. She spends a lot of time negotiating “How many books?” with her two young sons.
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