It’s hard to believe anyone would ask me to review a book after what I did to The Lorax last year, (and actually, I did it twice!) but Thomas Nelson Press has a blogger book review deal going on, and I signed up. My first title is The Moon Shines Down by Margaret Wise Brown.
Yes, that Margaret Wise Brown.
First off, this is not “The Runaway Bunny” or “Goodnight Moon.” I have to admit I was expecting something along those lines, but what arrived instead is a book aimed at an older listener. It’s far longer and lacks the simplicity and the repetition (and to be honest, the magic) that make the other two classics. You can read “Goodnight Moon” to an infant. “The Moon Shines Down” is aimed at a four or five year old.
Fortunately, I’m in possession of a four and a half year old, so after he tore open the mailing envelope, I allowed him to “convince” me to read it to him.
The blurb states that this manuscript was found locked in a trunk and has never before been published. My sense is that this is a draft of a manuscript, and Ms. Wise Brown would have polished it further before letting it see the light of day. The narrative follows the moon as it shines down (see, we have a title) over various countries on Earth and the children living there. The overall message is one of unity (we’re all children of the Earth, so we have something in common).
The text is difficult to read aloud. There are jolts in the scansion and I found myself rephrasing it on the fly in order to make it rhythmic enough to keep reading (and there were places I had to stop and go back.) My 11 year old came into the room during one reading and exclaimed, “That page doesn’t rhyme at all!” Well, it does, but some of the words need to be pronounced in an alternative fashion. (You’d have to pronounce the word “coun-TREE” instead of “country” in one place.) In other words, read the whole book first to yourself in order to not mangle the rhyming.
Wise Brown covers six of seven continents, but not in any particular order. It’s not as if we start on the International Date Line and then follow the moon’s travel around the Earth (which would have made sense) but we start in the Netherlands and from there we jump to the Far East, Mexico, France, and so on. In the midst of all these countries, the moon suddenly shines down on Christmas.
We have a repeated “God bless the moon, and God bless me,” but not predictably enough for it to become an actual refrain.
The artwork by Linda Bleck is very sweet. My four year old had a lot of fun hunting for the koala on every page (sometimes he’s very difficult to find) and by the end was laughing and calling it a Ko-la-wa. We’re not going to be able to read the book without calling it a kolawa for a while now. He wanted to look at the pictures a lot more than he wanted to read the text, in fact. Bleck’s artwork makes the most of the exotic locations chosen by Wise Brown, and even the sleeping animals and children look as if they’re having fun. (As Dr. Sears would say, they have a good sleep attitude.) Very much to Bleck’s credit, although the moon is said to see the children, the moon is not personified with a giant face. Its presence dominates each page without it becoming an actual character (hence the need for our friend the “Kolawa”.)
It’s not a bad book, but it didn’t create enough excitement in my son for him to beg me to read it several times, and it’s not going to stick in your child’s head (or your own head) enough that it becomes part of the fabric of your daily reading. It’s solid enough, though, and there’s plenty of material for your child to ask questions and explore the world a bit with you from the comfort of your living room.
Mom gives Goodnight Moon as birth or 1st birthday presents to *everyone*. Something about sharing the pain. They had to read it to me every night, including finding the mouse on every page, for … if I was anything like my kids, a very long time. I think this one will go on our shelf even with the “draftiness”, although I wish we could see her final version.