Story time is the best time of the day. Whether we're snuggled up on the couch or cozy in our pjs before bed, reading stories with my little ones is one of my favorite things to do. Everyone has a favorite book they remember from their childhood, and every day, parents and kids are discovering new classics of their own. There are many fabulous children's books out there, some of which everyone knows about and others we would have never discovered had my son not simply pulled a random book off a library shelf. I created this blog to share some of these wonderful stories with you. Think of it as a year's worth of the best children's books around, since no day should be without a great story. In the end, I hope we'll all have discovered at least a few new titles that will have made their way onto our list of family favorites. Enjoy!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Day 214: Long Night Moon

Cynthia Rylant has long been one of my favorite children's authors.  Her work never ceases to amaze me, mostly because it always feels so personal in a way I have trouble describing.  So touching.  So real.  I routinely look for her books when we are at our various local libraries, and was thrilled to bring this one home the other week.  I had never seen this book before, but was instantly drawn to its cover illustration.  As I opened it up and read the description on the jacket cover, I just knew I would love it.

Have you ever stopped to consider what might be revealed in one spot over one year by twelve unique and exquisite full moons?

My kids and I love observing the moon, especially on clear, summer nights.  As the moon followed us home from New Hampshire last week, my son barraged us with questions.  Why can we sometimes see the moon and sometimes we can't?  Why do we sometimes see just part of the moon and other times we can see all of it?  If the moon is made of rock, why does it glow?  There's a lot to be learned about the magical moon, and I love the way this book encourages children to enjoy and appreciate the light of night in a new and different way.

Long Night Moon is the type of book that I love a little more each time I read it.  At first glance, I was captivated by the artwork.  If you've ever tried to paint or draw moonlight, you know how difficult it is.  Mark Siegel's illustrations capture the feel and presence of moonlight magnificently.

A second reading found us exploring the meaning behind the names of the moons each month.  As Rylant explains at the outset, "Native Americans gave names to the full moons they watched throughout the year.  Each month had a moon.  And each moon had its name..." While the monthly names in this story aren't all the same as others that I've researched, I love the way each one captures the essence of the season and gets us thinking about the changes in nature at the time.  "In March a Sap Moon rises over melting ponds, sleepy bears, small green trees.  It tells a promise and a hope... In July the Thunder Moon trembles, shudders, and disappears in a thick black sky.  It listens to the clouds beat their drums."  The book is more poetry than story, but combined with Siegel's artwork, it tells a beautiful story.  Its pace is calming and slow, making it especially lovely to read at bedtime, but it's well worth a read at any time of day.

Be sure to read the note from the illustrator at the end of the book, too.  In it, Siegel describes how he took many long, moonlit walks to help inspire his art and find the perfect medium for this book. "In my busy, crowded life, I'd never given so much attention to moonlight:  What is it like?  How does it feel? What makes it so special?"  He also explains how Rylant "captured not just one, but many moods of night" throughout the book, and that these "distinct atmospheres seemed best explored in one continuous 360-degree panorama over the course of a year."  This artistic technique can only really be noticed if you slow down and pause before turning the page, allowing time to soak in the whole scene before moving on.  Reading this background made the book all the more impressive for me.  I'll include my favorite part below, for it paints a far better picture of the wonder of this story than I ever could.

"I realize now how tempting it is to think that nature closes up shop after sunset, but this isn't so.  When the sun goes down, nature doesn't disappear.  She shows us another face, one that is just as complex and astonishing as the face she wears during the day.  When we are young children, night sometimes has a forbidding, or even forbidden quality -- it is, after all, time for bed.  But its attraction is no less powerful.  May the words and images of Long Night Moon offer a safe invitation to savor the night and celebrate its otherwise hidden wonders." ~M.S.


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