I’m not sure how it is that I got several review copies last year from Creative Editions, but I’m glad I did. One of them was this beautiful book, featured a couple weeks ago. The book featured today, Moon Theater (August 2009), written and illustrated by Swiss-American illustrator Etienne Delessert, was another one. This is a haunting and weird (weird = compliment) and memorable picture book. When I read it, I felt like the child version of myself taking in a Sendak book again: Both the story and illustrations have that type of mystery and beauty and slight terror nestled in them.
I’ve only got this one spread (above) this morning to share. Wish I had more, but isn’t that beautiful? That’s the moon theater in action. You can click to see it in more detail. Look at that huge moon, getting raised to the night-time stage. That’s just creepy-good is what it is.
Moon Theater tells the tale of a young stage hand, who—as revealed on the cover here—is the one responsible for the backstage magic behind the moon theater that is the night.
“Every evening, the moon enters the wide stage of the night,” the book opens. “A very old man pulls the moon up and sends it on its journey. But my work backstage begins much earlier.” The boy waters the stars, dresses the birds in long black coats, trains wild dogs, plays tricky games with the rats, feeds the hungry night monsters, and more.
Yup, that’s right. “I feed the hungry night monsters.” That one’s a winning spread: It captures the fears children sometimes have about night-time, but does so in a gentle manner. The monsters aren’t likely to induce nightmares, but they’re decidedly eerie, too. And, no worries for the fretful children: The young boy also sprinkles “star powder to give the bears and dolls soft dreams.”
When he’s done, he climbs back into the moon for the night’s show. And what is the night’s show? It’s the spread opening this post: “It all began long, long ago, and it starts anew every night. It’s my moon theater.”
Clearly, this is an uncomplicated narrative. I love its present-tense immediacy. The illustrations are a wonder. To some extent, the pull a person has toward a picture book comes down to preferences in style. I like Delessert’s sprawling, dark spreads; his surreal and larger-than-life characters and creatures; and the dream-like mystery of this tale. (I also like any book that surprises you with a different cover under the jacket, art as this one does.)
Challenging to describe. Needs to be seen. If anyone else gets a copy from your library or bookstore, come back and discuss with me. I think it’s one-of-a-kind. And I’d love to see more of Delessert’s books. I’ll have to embark upon that adventure. Look out, library: Here I come.
MOON THEATER. Copyright © 2009 by Etienne Delessert. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Creative Editions, Mankato, MN.
As a reminder, 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you.
1). Well, wasn’t it mighty fun to hear all the ALA winners this week? Congratulations again to everyone! While we’re at it: Remember this book? It was awarded the 2010 NCTE Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children this week. Congratulations to Hester Bass and E.B. Lewis!
3). This kick (which falls into the Kids Say the Darnedest Things category, I admit) is a bit old, but better late than never: My husband and I are currently reading lots of Greek mythology to our girls. The five-year-old, in particular, digs it and digs it hard. We read the story of Medusa and how Athena sent Perseus to cut her snaky head off. My husband also explained to the girls, while on the subject of Athena, that Nashville is called “The Athens of the South” and told them about the Parthenon in Greece and the copy in Nashville, etc. Well, later on, when my husband wasn’t here, I said something about the Medusa story and couldn’t remember if it was Athena or Perseus who cut off Medusa’s head, and the five-year-old says to me, “No, Athena sent some boy from Nashville to do it.”
5). Jack Daniels’ Whiskey Praline Pecans.
6). This. The “empty areas where we have yet to map” part gives me the shivers.
7). It really is remarkable to me, though they undoubtedly have their spats, how considerate my girls are of each other. They’re probably gonna have a shouting match in five minutes to prove me wrong, but sometimes it just slays me how kind they are to one another.
BONUS: Hearing “Hey, Jack Kerouac” in a coffee shop this week. I can’t not sing along quietly and subtly dance, so I just look like I’m talking to myself or having spasms. The CD from which that song comes takes me back to high school somethin’ serious.
NOTE: The one-and-only Little Willow (who I think would love Moon Theater, incidentally) has launched a creative contest/give-away at Bildungsroman in honor of Raina Telgemeier’s new book, Smile, which is a graphic novel for kids based on her childhood experiences (and embarrassments) — and which looks really good. Here is all the info.