They sing for the Moon as they wait for her. They wait and wait for the Moon to appear. But she is nowhere to be seen.”
(Click to enlarge spread, which is sans text)
In the bio on the jacket flap for self-taught illustrator Naoko Stoop’s debut picture book, Red Knit Cap Girl (to be released mid-month by Megan Tingley Books/Little, Brown), she writes that she was inspired to write this story after participating in an event called Earth Hour, which encourages people to turn off the lights for an hour. She explains that she once lived in New York City and that it was challenging to see the night sky, given the abundant city lights.
Well, she up and did good with this story, one that could have easily been heavy-handed, given she was trying to make a point about enjoying the beauty of the night sky, no matter where you live.
“In the forest, there is time to wonder about everything,” the book opens. Red Knit Cap Girl sits on a log with her sidekick bunny friend and ponders such things as flowers, butterflies, leaves, and clouds. Mostly, though, she ponders the Moon and wants to get close enough to talk to her. Since her attempts fail, Hedgehog suggests she asks Owl, who knows everything. In a spread showing Stoop isn’t scared of a little dark mystery, we see Owl’s menacing eyes—and only his eyes—peering at her in the darkness from a tree, an effectively goosebump-inducing moment. Eventually, she coaxes an answer from Owl: “The Moon is too far to reach, but if you want, she will bend down to listen to you … You will find a way.”
Her friends join her in brainstorming ways to reach Moon, planning a celebration for afterwards. Their celebration involves hand-made paper lanterns, and when night comes, they find it strange that Moon is nowhere to be seen. “‘We should wait a little longer,’ says Red Knit Cap Girl. But there is just silence,” Stoop writes, accompanied by my favorite illustration in the book — all six friends sitting on a tree branch above the lantern’s glow, hushed in confusion and wonder over the absence of what their hearts desired.
wonders about flowers, butterflies, leaves, and clouds.”
(Click to enlarge spread, which is also sans text)
And I don’t want to give it all away, to ruin your experience of reading this yourself, but Owl shows up with a bit of wisdom. Really, he merely notes that the Moon is there, after all, and the girl determines what to do on her own.
And when the Moon does appear? Ah, Stoop’s rendering of the night-time visitor is magical, elegant in its simplicity.
This is solid writing, but what really stands out is Stoop’s art, rendered in acrylic, ink, and pencil on plywood. The Kirkus review, calling it a “Zen-like parable,” writes:
A plywood canvas creates a fantastically pliant, otherworldly atmosphere that undulates with shifting perspectives, horizons, dimensions—even surfaces. Once painted, the wood’s grain assumes the look of clouds, sand, water, grass, mist, creating a bewitching forest that feels at times magical and others spooky. Nocturnal hues (dusky yellows and reds, darkening greens and ultimately a blackening blue) transport readers to nightfall and the moon’s imminent arrival.
And Stoop uses simple shapes, lots of comforting curves, and merely two dots for eyes (that’s about as far as facial expressions go) to tell this tale. The color palette, as Kirkus notes, is particularly beguiling.
It’s an eye-catching debut from a promising new artist.
RED KNIT CAP GIRL. Copyright © 2012 by Naoko Stoop. Published by Megan Tingley Books/Little, Brown and Company, New York. Images reproduced with permission of the publisher.