Thursday 3 September 2015

Finding Monkey Moon

Finding Monkey Moon by Elizabeth Pulford, illustrated by Kate Wilkinson (Walker Books)
HC RRP $ 27.95
ISBN 9781921720734

Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

The stunning illustrations in this gorgeous picture book are created with acrylic paint. The dark and muted colours add mystery to the story, and deepen the sense of urgency that the text creates as soon as the story begins. The mood is one of sadness and gloom, because Monkey Moon, Michael’s favourite toy, cannot be found.

It is bedtime and Michael calls to Monkey Moon that it’s time to go upstairs. But he isn’t in any of his favourite places. Dad and Michael search everywhere and come to the conclusion that he must be still at the park.

Both boys put on their hats, coats and gumboots. Torch in hand, they head out into the dark night. Michael calls a reassurance to Monkey Moon that he’s coming, so he won’t be frightened. You can feel the fear in the boy as he calls to dad ‘wait for me’. It’s juxtaposed with the fear he feels for his friend.

I can feel their breath in the cold air; feel their anxiety.

They enter the park. An owl’s hoot echoes. “It won’t be long now, Monkey Moon’ Michael shouts, more to himself. There are shadows everywhere.  Dad puts Michael on his shoulders. ‘There you go, young fella’.

The swings are silent. The ducks are sleeping. Past the pop corn truck, into the picnic ground they go. Michael calls to Monkey Moon. He checks under dry leaves. Tiny animals scurry from their resting places. The boys check behind tall trees, in the playhouse, around the sunken garden. Michael calls and calls, but darkness is his only answer.

‘Michael’s lips tremble’. He turns to go. What was that in the bushes sparkling?

This is a beautifully moving, and poignant story of loss and recovery. There are two human characters and Monkey Moon, the lost doll to carry the story. But endless other things are occurring around them. Their journey is one of discovery - of the natural world and all it holds at night, and that of the lost object. Then there’s what the reader discovers in it all.

This picture book will be read again and again, for there’s so much in it. The main theme is the loving relationship between father and son. Perhaps equally as important, is the relationship between the boy and his beloved playmate. It appears that both father and son have lost something more. This is not referred to, but they feel the pain of loss strongly. It shows in the desperate and urgent search for Monkey Moon. It’s what is left unsaid that makes it so poignant and deeply moving.

This book is a joy from beginning to end, and ideal for 5 -105 age groups.

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