________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 14 . . . . March 7, 2008


How the Moon Regained Her Shape.

Janet Ruth Heller. Illustrated by Ben Hudson.
MT. Pleasant, NY: Sylvan Dell Publishing, 2006.
32 pp., pbk. & hc., $9.95 (pbk.), $19.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-934359-02-0 (pbk.), ISBN 978-0-9764943-4-8 (hc.).

Subject Heading:
Moon-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 1-4 / Ages 6-9.

Review by Gregory Bryan.

**** /4


But one day [the moon] danced across the face of the sun. The earth darkened and the sun spoke angrily to the moon. “You ugly scarecrow! People on earth need me to grow their crops. But no one needs you. Get out of my way!”

How the Moon Regained Her Shape was published by Sylvan Dell Publishing in 2006 and has since been recognised with a number of awards. Written by Janet Ruth Heller and illustrated by Ben Hodson, How the Moon Regained Her Shape relates the story of how the moon responds to bullying insults uttered by the sun. The moon’s initial response is to withdraw, but, after encouragement from others, the moon eventually returns to the sky.

     The story is influenced by First Nation legends, and Heller’s sparse text has the “feel” of oral storytelling. The text features careful word choice that allows a great deal to be conveyed with relatively few words. In one example of the careful choice of words, Heller writes of a comet that sees the “dwindling moon dragging herself across the sky.” Used in this context, “dwindling” and “dragging” are evocative words that help the reader to develop a deep sense of the sorrow that the moon feels.

     Cheered by the encouragement of people and animals that miss the moon’s presence, the moon eventually decides to return to the sky. The moon reasons that the sun has a job to do, but that she also has a job to perform. The moon also has friends who admire her for the manner in which she performs her duty of lighting the night sky. These are, of course, important messages for all people to be aware of—we all have a role to play, and we should not allow bigger and brighter others to bully us into submission.

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     The mixed media illustrations of Ottawa artist Ben Hodson feature acrylic paints, handmade papers, wallpaper, pencil crayons, gesso, ink, and glue on watercolour paper. Born of this elaborate combination, the illustrations are beautiful. The illustrations are reflective of what appears to be an Arizona desertscape, including such things as sand, sparse vegetation, roadrunners, mesas and buttes, coyotes and the occasional cactus. In addition, a three-dimensional, shadowed element to the illustrations is reflective of one influence that the sun and the moon have upon the earth, creating contrasting areas of light and darkness.

     An intriguing fore- and middle-ground palette of muted colours complements the dominant background colours. Without seeing the artwork, I would have had difficulty envisaging such beautiful illustrative co-existence of purples, pinks and blues, with liberally employed browns, greens and greys. It really does result in a visual feast and readers will be fascinated by the illustrations. The artwork is attractively framed with a colourful border design. The borders contain a depiction of the phases of the moon, reflecting the story protagonist’s changes throughout the book.

     At the end of the book, five pages of supplementary material are also included. Entitled “For Creative Minds,” this additional material enhances the educative value of the book and potentially increases the enjoyment readers will derive from Heller and Hodson’s work. Included among the end page material are various definitions and explanations, web links, illustrations, and activities. This is a book that can be put to good use in schools and libraries. It is a book that I recommend highly.

Highly Recommended.

Gregory Bryan lives in Winnipeg, MB. He teaches children’s literature at the University of Manitoba.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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