Thursday, 12 April 2012

Ladder to the Moon

Ladder to the Moon by Maya Soetoro, illustrated by Yuyi Morales (Walker Books)
HB RRP $29.95
ISBN – 978-1-4063-3773-0
Reviewed by Emma Cameron

This is a gentle, heartwarming story inspired by the author’s own daughter’s desire to have known her grandmother, who died before she was born. It opens with Sulailia asking what Grandma Annie was like. We learn that, like the moon, she was “Full, soft, and curious”  and “would have wrapped her arms round the whole world if she could.”  Sulailia yearns to meet her and, one night, Grandma Annie appears on a golden ladder at Sulailia’s bedroom window, arms open.

They climb the ladder to the moon and look down to Earth to see some frightening things: children caught in a tsunami, or climbing down two tall, trembling towers, or fleeing an earth that is shaking. From up so high, however, they are able to reach their arms out and bring all the children up to a better place, where there is room for all and their stories are shared so they learn they are all one and the same and certainly never alone with people like Grandma Annie to look out for them and help.

As they continue to make the afterlife kind and safe Sulailia looks down to see people on Earth in synagogues, temples, mosques and churches, with their hands joined in prayer. When she asks what they are all praying for her grandma says “For one another, and for us. And to make the fighting stop.”  The powerful words, combined with soft and warm, yet vibrant pastels, bring a sense of peace, giving readers much to marvel at and ponder over. It is a book suitable, and one I’d recommend, for every age and gender.

The language used by the author is lovely and Grandma Annie speaks beautifully, saying she and others will “throw in our hearts and minds, and work with our hands to make the land a little more kind.”  The reader learns that, together, we can “build bridges and buildings and bonds between people.”  With a strong sense of a woman’s love and compassion for all, the story reminds us how connected we are to one another and how, even though they have left his world, our loved ones will always stay connected to us.

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