Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Boy Who Climbed Into the Moon

When librarians go to conferences, publishers often give them free copies of upcoming books as publicity tools. These are called pre-pubs or ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies). At the American Library Association Midwinter conference I picked up a couple of them that I'll review here in the next few weeks. This first one is by the award winning David Almond and is due out next month (April).

Book: The Boy Who Climbed Into the Moon by David Almond; illustrated by Polly Dunbar

Vital Stats: Published by Candlewick Press in April 2010, 128 pages with full color illustrations throughout
Marketed Toward: 9 to 12 years
The Quick and the Short of It: This is delightful fantasy that should sit well with anyone who likes Roald Dahl though it does not quite reach his level of brilliance.

Book Synopsis:
One day a boy named Paul stays home from school and has a delightful adventure. He feels oppressed by the weight of the city (somewhere in England) and the apartment building (where he lives with his parents in the basement) and decides to touch the sky. So he travels to the top of his apartment building meeting several people along the way. At the top of the floor lives an eccentric woman named Molly (or is it her identical twin sister Mabel?) and with her Paul shares his (newly discovered) theory that the moon is actually a hole in the sky. Reuniting with his parents, they join Paul and Molly to meet Molly's brother Benjamin who also believes Paul's moon theory. Of course the only way to test it is for Paul to climb into the moon. Doing so involves all the characters met thus far and leads to even more interesting people.

My Take:
I liked this book. The final copy (though not my advanced copy) will have full color illustrations which I am quite looking forward to. It should be a beautiful book. This is full of the delightful nonsense that appeals to kids and tweens. Can you climb into a moon? What would you find if the moon were a hole in the sky? Who else might have accidentally fallen into it? I don't think this book will reach classic or award winning status. It's never laugh out loud funny or extremely moving. However it is a very solid, piece of amusing that will suit very well for anyone looking for a light read. I can't wait to recommend it as summer reading this summer at my library.

Possible Issues/Christian Connection:
Quickly and briefly: Paul is described on page one as a boy who "didn't like school and school didn't seem to like him". There are various incidents of characters calling each other "silly" or saying mildly disparaging things to each other. The worst of these incidents is stopped and an apology is demanded and forgiveness given. The ideas that live in Molly's brother Benjamin's head are described as potentially being "the salvation of us all". Not meant in a religious sense, but might be interesting for someone who has only heard that word in a religious context. There is an often repeated phrase about sausages being better than war. It veers a bit close to cursing when one person refers to something as "no blinking good". There is also a moment where Paul (aided by many adults) climbs a ladder on top of a building. Please don't try that at home! None of those things should dissuade anyone from reading the book, but they are presented to make your own judgments. Often in children's literature the parents are non-existent, absent, or ineffective. However in this story, Paul's parents are very much main characters, seeking him out when he is missing and joining him on his adventures. It's a nice thing to see in a kid's book.

There would be a way to read a Christian allegory into this entire story. Paul is depressed and longs to escape the world. So he climbs up to the sky and eventually into the moon. Inside the moon is a delightful world full of other explorers who've ended up there. They all live in peace and happiness together in the moon. You could draw an allegory about escaping to Heaven, but I have no evidence that the author intended any such thing, especially since Paul chooses to return to his home.

You Might Also Like:
Anything by Roald Dahl, my favorite is The BFG (Big Friendly Giant) or The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart.

God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. -Genesis 1:16


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