Review: The Spacesuit by Alison Donald

The Spacesuit How a Seamstress Helped Put Man on the Moon by Alison Donald

The Spacesuit: How a Seamstress Helped Put Man on the Moon by Alison Donald, illustrated by Ariel Landy (9781848864245)

A fascinating glimpse at a woman behind the success of the first moon landing. Eleanor Foraker loved to sew even as a young girl. As an adult, she worked for Playtex, sewing clothing for children and women. When a contest opened to design a spacesuit to go to the moon, Ellie entered it at the last minute. Ellie worked tirelessly with a team of seamstresses and engineers, trying to make a spacesuit that was softer and more comfortable than previous designs. The design was made of 21 layers of fabrics, and they used huge sewing machines to get that much fabric under the needle. The precision sewing meant that they had to be within 1/64 of an inch to be successful. The suit was sent off to Texas with a major problem with a broken zipper that they got a chance to fix. In the end, Ellie’s design won the day and made it to the moon.

This nonfiction picture book tells the very interesting story of how the spacesuits for the moon landing were invented and designed. The interplay of engineers and seamstresses where everyone’s ideas were valid is an important piece. The focus on comfort as well as functionality made their suit the winner as well as a willingness to work very hard to get it finished in time.

The art in the book pays homage to sewing by incorporating pins, images that look sewn on, and even a timeline made of thread. The illustrations are bright with throwbacks to the 1960’s too. The combination is bright and hopeful.

Based on the true story, this picture book is “sew” good. Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Music for Mister Moon by Philip C. Stead

Music for Mister Moon by Philip C. Stead

Music for Mister Moon by Philip C. Stead, illustrated by Erin E. Stead (9780823441600)

A collaboration between the Steads is always reason for joy. This picture book explores the imagination of Hank, a young cellist who simply wants to play all alone. When her parents suggest that she play in public, she doesn’t think that sounds good at all. So she imagines them as penguins and heads for her room which she imagines is an isolated warm room. But just as she starts to play, an owl hoots outside. Hank eventually tosses a teacup at the owl but then her cozy home starts to fill with smoke. She discovers that the moon has been hit by her teacup and fallen down to sit atop her chimney. Together, Hank and moon have a series of adventures from buying the moon a warm hat to taking a boat ride. Will Hank play her music for the moon? And how will the moon return to the sky again?

This story is intensely whimsical and lovely. From the very first page, the tone is set and readers will realize they are in a different world. This is partly because of the lightness and ethereal beauty of the illustrations. Filled with chalky color, their fine lines show a world populated with animals, coziness and quiet.

The writing is equally delicate, moving through the tale and inviting readers to linger a while and hear the cello music too. Hank is an intriguing character, a girl who loves music but not performing. She is also a girl with an intense imagination, creating teacups and flinging them high enough to tap the moon. She allows her emotions to become items she places around her, and so the journey with the moon becomes all the more beautiful.

A bedtime story that is beautiful, moonlit and filled with music. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy provided by Neal Porter Books.

Review: A Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin

A Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin

A Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin (9780316404488)

Little Star and her mother bake a big mooncake together. When her mother palces the cake in the sky to cool, she reminds Little Star not to touch it until she is told to. Little Star agrees. Little Star gets ready for bed and falls right to sleep, but she wakes up in the middle of the night thinking about the mooncake. She only takes a tiny nibble and then runs back to bed. Night after night, Little Star eats a little bit more of the mooncake until finally all that was left was a tiny pile of twinkling crumbs. There was only one thing to do… bake another one!

This is a beautiful tribute to the phases of the moon that tells the story in an original and modern way. There are tiny touches of a folklore format here, but nothing that formal. Instead the story embraces the reader, so one can almost taste the cake on your tongue. The text is simple and has a wonderful playfulness to it so that readers are in on Little Star’s midnight snacks along with her.

The illustrations are exceptional, mixing whimsy with realistic figures. Even with the first bite of the Big Mooncake, a trail of starlike crumbs are left behind. Little Star and her mother wear black pajamas covered in large yellow stars that blend into the dark backgrounds of the pages. Even the endpages are wonderful with tributes to the blue of the sky in the day, a clock that monitors the phases of the moon and milk that swirls into a galaxy when spilled.

A remarkable picture book from a gifted author and illustrator. Appropriate for ages 2-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Review: The Shadow in the Moon by Christina Matula

The Shadow in the Moon A Tale of the Mid-Autumn Festival by Christina Matula

The Shadow in the Moon: A Tale of the Mid-Autumn Festival by Christina Matula, illustrated by Pearl Law (9781580897464)

The whole family gathers for the Mid-Autumn Festival to give thanks for the harvest. They will look at the moon and then each person makes a wish for the upcoming year. As the mooncakes are served, Ah-ma tells the story of Chang’e, the Spirit and Lady in the Moon. It was in a time when there were ten suns in the sky, baking the earth. The suns would not listen and stop shining so hard, so a young archer, Hou Yi, shot down nine of the moons. The last one he asked to share the sky with the moon. Hou Yi was given a magic potion for his courage by the Immortals. When a thief came to steal the potion, Hou Yi’s wife, Chang’e, drank it rather than have it fall into the wrong hands. The potion turned her into the Spirit and Lady in the Moon. Hou Yi discovered what had happened and would sit in the garden and look up at the moon, providing mooncakes on the anniversary of the day she transformed. After the story, the girls are ready to light their paper lanterns and make their wishes, inspired by the heroism of Hou Yi and Chang’e.

Matula merges a modern tale of a Chinese family with the legend that inspired this festival. The two stories are clearly separate, which works really well for a young audience. Her writing is clear, describing the mooncakes in a mouthwatering way and the inspiring actions of the legendary characters in a way that allows the melancholy yet beautiful tale to shine. The illustrations also make a clear distinction between the stories. The modern family is shown on white backgrounds that are clean and crisp. The legend is shown with primarily deep jeweled colors as the background, inviting readers into the richness of the tale.

A wonderful and warm introduction to Chinese festivals, this picture book offers a look at how festivals carry on in modern society while also telling the story behind it all. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy provided by Charlesbridge.

3 New Picture Books Full of Animals

Honey by David Ezra Stein

Honey by David Ezra Stein (9781524737863)

This is a companion book to Leaves with the same bear. This time the bear has woken up from hibernation and is hungry for honey. Everything around him reminds him of aspects of honey like the golden sun and the flowing river. But it is too early for honey to be ready, so the bear tries to forget about it. Still, he keeps on thinking of the sweet treat as he spends his days. He enjoys the rain, swimming in the water, and exploring his surroundings. Finally it is time for honey! And then the days start to cool again and fall approaches.

A great companion book to the first stellar picture book, this one feels so connected to the first. The art has the same free and flowing style as the first that was so compelling. In this book, honey is the focus and Stein cleverly shows how different parts of the bear’s day remind him of honey even when he is distracted. The illustrations are compellingly summerlike, the sunshine clear on the page. A welcome new sweet treat of a book to share. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from library copy.)

The Moon Man by Isabel Harris

The Moon Man by Isabel Harris, illustrated by Ada Grey (9781680100785)

One day Cat, Rabbit and Squirrel discovered a new addition to the wheatfield they lived near. It was a scarecrow, but only Rabbit knew that. The friends played near the scarecrow because he smelled nice and had a friendly face. That night, Fox, Owl and Hedgehog came out into the field and see the scarecrow. They think that he’s a moon man and leave him food to eat. The next morning, the other animals believe the scarecrow has left them some treats to eat. They in turn give the scarecrow flowers. The nocturnal animals see the flowers and think that the moon man has picked them because the moon doesn’t have any flowers. Perhaps they should build him a rocket to return home. When the farmer returns, he finds his scarecrow quite different! He moves it to another field, so the nocturnal animals believe their rocket has worked!

Grey’s picture book has young readers in on the joke immediately. The day animals know what the scarecrow is and their jubilant reaction sets the tone for the book. The nocturnal animals are the most confused, but their story is what makes the book really work. It is particularly nice that their story of what is happening is never disproven and instead remains intact throughout the book. The illustrations are bright and summery, filled with golds and greens. The nighttime illustrations fade to grays and pastels. A book about imagination and creativity, this picture book is full of humor and friendship. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Pignic by Matt Phelan

Pignic by Matt Phelan (9780062443397)

An adorable family of pigs head out on a sunny day for the perfect picnic. A friendly turtle helps the littlest pig climb up into a tree. As other pigs want to fly a kite, a wolf sneaks up on them. There isn’t any wind, but luckily the wolf has a solution and fixes the problem with a “Huff puff.” Called to eat, the pigs leave the wolf holding the kite. Soon storm clouds gather and rain pours down in a gush. It leaves lots of mud behind, much to the joy of the pig family!

With one problem after another, the pigs still manage to have a wonderful picnic together. The text is very simple, with a natural rhythm that ends with a chorus of “Hooray!” when each obstacle is overcome. This playful book shows the power of helping one another and having a positive outlook. The illustrations are done in watercolors and pencils, showing pink pigs of all sizes ready for a great day together. Even the blue wolf is not scary, just right for the littlest listeners. A book that will have everyone planning the next picnic. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Whose Moon Is That? by Kim Krans

Whose Moon Is That by Kim Krans

Whose Moon Is That? by Kim Krans (9781101932278, Amazon)

When the cat asks aloud who the moon belongs to, he gets many different answers. The tree and bird both insist the moon is theirs. The bear claims to have seen it first while the stars say it’s theirs because they hold it. The wolf insists that it helps him howl, so it’s his. Even the ocean thinks it is theirs because they reflect the moonlight. But the moon itself soon sets things straight and explains that the moon belongs to no one and to everyone. Still, the cat awakes the next morning with a new question about the sun!

This picture book about the moon is written in rhyming couplets that are not forced or unnatural. The book flows nicely from one natural figure to the next, each insisting that the moon is theirs with rhythm and rhyme. The illustrations are a mix of detailed fine-ink black and white with dramatic watercolor backgrounds that at times are almost tie-dyed and a mix of deep and bright colors.

A lovely bedtime book that will be welcomed especially on moonlit nights. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Edelweiss and Random House.

 

Review: Sun and Moon by Lindsey Yankey

Sun and Moon by Lindsey Yankey

Sun and Moon by Lindsey Yankey (InfoSoup)

All Moon wanted was to spend just one day as the Sun. The Sun agreed with two conditions. The first was that their switch would not be for just one day, but it would be permanent. The second was that Moon had to spend one more night in the sky, and this time he had to spend his time really looking at the earth below. The Moon agreed though he expected to only see a sleepy earth below him. Instead though, he saw city lights, foxes getting ready to hunt, children dreaming, flowers blooming that only open at night, the stars around him, and much more. There were even fireworks in the sky and fireflies darting too. Will Moon still want to change spots with Sun?

Structured like a folktale, this picture book speaks to the importance of both day and night. And to the important role that both our sun and our moon play in the sky and for life on earth. Yankey makes sure to honor both of them, creating timeless moments that show the Moon just how beautiful night actually is.

Yankey shows the brilliance of the night in this picture book. First she shows the beauty of the daytime with her tigers lounging and bright flowers blooming. But the book truly comes to life as the pages turn dark midnight blue and the world gets filled with the light of the moon and stars. Some pages are filled with celebrations of dreams and the wonder of the forest at night while others are quiet and subtle.

A lovely bedtime read, this picture book celebrates nighttime and its beauty. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: The Moon Is Going to Addy’s House by Ida Pearle

The Moon Is Going to Addy's House by Ida Pearle

The Moon Is Going to Addy’s House by Ida Pearle (InfoSoup)

When Addy’s play date is finished, she is taken home in a car by her father and mother. Her little sister is along for the ride too and the moon shines outside of their windows. It is sometimes high in the sky, other times low under a bridge. It follows them over a bridge, through the hills. It is sometimes so close that you would think you could catch it in your hands. The moon goes all the way to their home with them, waiting outside during their bath and then celebrates along with Addy during her nighttime dance. It’s even there when she finally goes to bed.

Pearle has written a poem to the moon, celebrating the way that it shines on all children from up above. She captures the way that the moon seems to shift positions as you drive, the joy of open windows and wind, and the peek-a-boo that the moon plays with clouds and objects. The text is simple and poetic, creating a mood of joy and universal pleasure in heading home at night.

The illustrations here are stunningly beautiful. Done in cut-paper collage, they are astonishing. Pearle captures the feel of a dog’s fur, the play of moonlight across large buildings, the deep purple of the night as it arrives. She also changes the color of the moon as the journey continues, allowing it to take over the final pages with its splendor.

This moonlit book is gorgeous and just right for a bedtime read. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books.

Review: Come Back, Moon by David Kherdian

come back moon

Come Back, Moon by David Kherdian, illustrated by Nonny Hogrogian

In this quiet book, Bear blames the moon for not being able to fall asleep.  So he pulls it out of the sky.  Fox notices that the moon is gone and so do Skunk, Opossum and Raccoon.  Crow asks Fox why he doesn’t know where the moon is, since he’s so clever.  So Fox takes them all to talk to Owl who is wise.  Owl knows where the moon is, since he saw Bear take it.  So they head off to retrieve the moon from Bear.  But how will they get it away from him?

This book has a wonderfully clear and simple story line that makes it ideal to use with toddlers.  It also has a deep quiet to it that will work for good bedtime or naptime reading.  Kherdian uses repetition throughout the story, having the different animals share ideas and echo back decisions. 

Hogrogian’s art also has that simple style.  She has wonderful images like the one on the cover that speak to the darkness and loss of the moon.  Her animals are realistically depicted and appear against white or tan backgrounds with few details. 

There is a place for quiet books for small children and this one has just enough activity to keep it moving too.  It would make a great board book.  Appropriate for ages 1-3.

Reviewed from copy received from Beach Lane Books.