Perfect Picture Book Friday – Many Moons

I have selected a golden oldie to celebrate Princess Week.

Many Moons

By James Thurber, illustrated by Louis Slobodkin

Published by Voyager Books, 1943

Awards: Recipient of the Caldecott Medal in 1944

Ages: 7-11

Themes: Moon, princesses, wisdom, foolishness, fairy tale

Opening/Synopsis:

“Once upon a time in a kingdom by the sea, there lived a little Princess named Lenore. She was ten years old, going on eleven. One day Leonore fell ill of a surfeit of raspberry tarts and took to her bed.”

Princess Lenore is sick from tart overdosing, and the only thing that will cure her ailment, she says, is to own the moon. So the King calls on his top wizards and councilmen to try to figure out how to grant the little girl’s wish.  The Lord High Chamberlain, the Royal Wizard and the Royal Mathematician, each has a different,  scientific, logical and useless solution for the problem. Enter, of course, the Court Jester, whose simple resolution you will need to read the book to discover.

Why I like this book: The hilarious 1944 Caldecott-winning book, written by  well known humorist, James Thurber, makes a fantastic read-aloud to older children. Adults will especially like the humor, while children will love the ludicrous nature of the “wise” men’s suggestions, and the wisdom of the court fool, as well as and the build up to the story’s climax and satisfying solution. This is, as typical from its date, a LONG picture book and, with some complex language (surfeit anyone?), so will need to be kept for older elementary children. It is a masterly crafted fairy tale with some tongue in cheek wit, mockery of the at times boxed world view of adults, and with some beautiful language choices. I love saying and seeing “blue poodles”, don’t you? The drawings remind me enormously of those in Madeline, which shouldn’t surprise me as it is from the same era! I love this look at child/adult perception and appreciate the whimsy and word choice. I think you will fall afresh in love with the crescent moon after reading this sweet story! The final light shines on the jester and the little princess, whose combined sense reveals a good lesson that children and the humble ones often have the resources to work things out.

Actitivities:

Watch and chart a waxing and waning moon for a month with the kids.

This story has some great roles and totally gives itself to reenacting!

To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.  Or click on the Perfect Picture Book Fridays  badge in the right sidebar.

This is also part of Gathering Books’ Award Winning Books 2012 Challenge.

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16 Responses to Perfect Picture Book Friday – Many Moons

  1. Why have I never encountered this book before? It sounds right up my alley, and a perfect way to celebrate Princess Week (I’m so glad you chose a princess book like this!) I’ve just checked and our city library system has one copy. Since one is all I need, I will soon know what happens when one falls ill of “a surfeit of raspberry tarts” (a phrase which delights the word-lover in me).

    Now I’m trying to come up with activities to go with a reading of this book. Perhaps one could suggest kids think of other courtiers and other grandiose and impossible plans to get the moon for the princess, to exercise their imaginations? Researching the meaning of the new words would be good. Baking raspberry tarts would be wonderful, as long as one didn’t eat a surfeit of them. I can also imagine a school class acting out the story to great effect.

  2. Erik This Kid Reivews Books says:

    Must google surfeit…
    I love that the princess wanted to own the moon and that will make her better 🙂 I am going to see if the library has this book!

  3. Your review has made me want to read this RIGHT NOW and alas, I don’t have a copy 🙂 I love adding books for older readers to our list – no one should have to outgrow PBs 🙂 – and I love James Thurber! I was prone to terrible ear infections as a child, and while I was suffering through long nights my mom would read me James Thurber stories, so I appreciate that this one searches for a solution to illness, when the stories themselves were my solution. The Catbird Seat? 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing this one, Joanna!

  4. I love all the moon-related selections this week. Thanks for another great pick, Joanna.

  5. Sounds wonderful!! The cover is beautiful. My library had one, and it is by James Thurber, but the cover was different. Just to be safe, I placed the original one on hold via interlibrary loan. Thanks for adding it to the list. Great review!

  6. Amy Dixon says:

    lol, tart overdose! Love it! This sounds like a great addition to the PPB list! I am a big fan of quirky, funny books, so I am sure I will love this one. Thanks for the recommendation!

  7. I have a vague memory of readin this book as a child. Such a classic pick. This was written before I was born, but it reminds me of the kinds of books I read in the 50s — a lot of fairy tales, princess stories, Uncle Wiggly and so on. James Thurber’s House is in downtown Columbus. They have a library, hold talks, events and host author appearances. It is lovely place to visit.

  8. Nessa Morris says:

    Ooh… you had me at raspberry tart. I guess it doesn’t help that I’m reading your post at lunchtime. Sounds like a fabulous book. My daughter and I love all things princess.

  9. Loni Edwards says:

    This sounds like a delightful book. I can’t wait to find it. Thanks Joanna!

  10. Sounds like a fun book. Perhaps best for mom at this point or perhaps in pieces for Enzo. Glad to stop by on a real Friday. 🙂

  11. Now I can make raspberry tarts if you want?
    Love this book and it reminds me of the last SCBWI meeting with guest author/illustrator named Sandra Morris who spoke of writing and illustrating books of the sky, moon and the earth. Very interesting. Thanks Joanna.

  12. Oh Joanna, I am a huge fan of James Thurber. I reviewed several of his NYRB Children’s Book titles such as The 13 clocks and The Wonderful O – I love how refreshingly-biting Thurber’s wit is, one of the few that can truly make me laugh out loud (along with Norman Lindsay). I didn’t realize he has written a picture book as well! I am so delighted to have discovered this book through you. Definitely one of the books I have got to find in our libraries. 🙂 I am pinning this. By the way, have you linked this up in our AWB April database? Here is the link, just in case you haven’t. http://main.gatheringbooks.org/?page_id=286

  13. Joanna…thank you so much for unearthing yet another old classic…I absolutely love this and will look for it…the story is timeless!!!
    Great activties also…I can just see kids having a ball with roleplaying this story. 🙂

  14. Leslie Rose says:

    Many Moons sounds charming AND perfect for my 5th graders. I love older long form picture books and James Thurber. Win – Win.

  15. Joanna says:

    I’d love to know if your 5th graders enjoy this. 🙂

  16. M says:

    I just finished reading half of this to my 4th graders as an introduction to the study of the moon. I stopped half way through to increase the anticipation of “what happens next!” They are LOVING it!! It’s a great cross curricular book because you can integrate math, science, reading and history through it. I am enjoying it too!!

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