Thursday 8 April 2021

Moonlight Mums

Moonlight Mums by Laura Stitzel (Puffin Books) HB RRP $19.99 ISBN 9781760895792

Reviewed by Nikki M Heath

As mother owl, frog, and wombat head out for a night’s work, a small child misses mum at bedtime. Dad weaves a story of the mother animals’ important work providing for their families, even as they miss their little ones. As the baby animals settle for the night, the return of their mothers is echoed by the child’s mother coming home from a big city office.

This book begins like just another of many gentle rhyming bedtime stories, so the subtle twist to focus on the specific scenario of a mother working late packs an emotional punch. The child’s mother enters the narrative only at the midpoint of the book, and even then, only in illustrations, quietly bringing home the analogy with the three animals. It isn’t until the final two pages that the child’s mother is referenced directly in the text, with an expression of love and a kiss goodnight.

The illustrations are gorgeous, delicately coloured in the night-time context, and filled with the character required to carry such a significant narrative weight. The child’s mother is represented with a truth and familiarity that will resonate deeply with any mother who has found herself working late and missing her family. 

This story won’t be everything to everyone: non-traditional family units and families with mothers who aren’t home at the end of every night won’t find themselves clearly represented.

Nevertheless, for the many children whose mums work at night, whether in an office or as a shift worker, this beautiful book offers a comforting way of explaining why mum is away from home, often a tricky feat with young children. The mothers in question will also be moved by the sensitive treatment of the competing demands of work and family with which so many of us are uncomfortably familiar. A special bedtime book for children aged 3 years and up.

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