Try as I might to forget its silly, soothing rhyme, a refrain from a poem by Ivy O Eastwick that we were taught in second grade is stuck in my mind for good: “Timothy Boon/ Bought a balloon/ Blue as the sky/ Round as the moon”. Watching the lunar spectacle on January 31, there it was, at the back of my mind, like a tic that just wouldn’t disappear. For the first time in 152 years, three lunar events — a supermoon, a blue moon and a blood moon — took place simultaneously last month. Perhaps, that will be incentive enough to forget about Timothy’s balloon and wax eloquent on the moon instead:
The universally popular The Very Hungry Caterpillar (1969) and The Grouchy Caterpillar (1977) have made American picture book author Eric Carle a household name, but here’s a secret: The big, interactive Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me (1991) for beginner readers is just as delectable. Monica wants her father to get her the moon, but when he climbs all the way up to it, he realises that it is too big to be a plaything and he possibly couldn’t carry it back with him. The benign moon, however, lets him in on a secret to fulfill his daughter’s wish. Apart from being an ode to filial love, the book radiates a child’s wide-eyed wonder at the universe. Its fold-out pages introduce children to ideas of scale and dimension and to the lunar cycle.
In the mountains of Ladakh, young Tashi finds a friend in the moon. Every day, he spends time checking on his friend, till the moon’s thinning frame catches his eye. Could it be that his friend is not getting enough to eat? Why else would he lose his rotundness? Former advertising professional Mamta Nainy talks about the centrality of the moon in Tibetan Buddhism in Milky Way (2017, Yali Publishing). The book, appropriate for 4+ years presents a slice-of-life story of people living in remote Himalayan regions. If that isn’t enough, there’s also mention of plenty of delicious food to whet your appetite.
Various myths and folklores around the sun and the moon come alive in Tara Book’s stunning Sun and Moon: Folk Tales from Various Artists (2016). Illustrated by some of India’s best-known indigenous artists, including the Padma Shri award-winning Gond artist Bhajju Shyam, Ram Singh Urveti and Durga Bai and Meena artist Sunita, among others, the book is a work of art in itself. The illustrations, made on handmade paper, are detailed and intricate, weaving in the minimal text in a seamless reading experience. This one is a keeper.
If we are talking of the moon, can astronauts be far behind? “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”. Neil Armstrong’s unforgettable words when he and Buzz Aldrin first set foot on the moon in 1969 form the basis of One Giant Leap (2009, Philomel Books), a picture book, appropriate for 6+ years, written by Robert Burleigh on the 40th anniversary of the moon mission. Burleigh gives the historic mission a very real, emotional context — the story captures the tension and the wonder in the two astronauts as they approach the moon while Mike Wimmer’s illustrations are breathtakingly life-like. Just the right book to introduce children to the first moonwalk ever.
The Moon Book (Scholastic, 1997) written and illustrated by Gail Gibbons is a rookie’s introduction to the moon. It speaks of its origin, orbits and phases, eclipses and its impact on tides, and, the astronauts who have made it to the moon, without overwhelming its young readers with academic writing and too many details.