Book Reviewed: City Moon – Rachael Cole and Blanca Gómez, Schwartz and Wade Books, 2017
Children like to know that the moon will stay right where it is in the night sky, whether viewed during a walk outside, or safely inside their bedroom. Rachael Cole’s and Blanca Gómez’s City Moon follows a mother and young child on a walk through their city neighborhood at night, as the pair discovers together that the moon will follow them everywhere, and finally rest, along with the boy, at the end of his bedtime routine.
The book both responds and adds to the tradition of childhood moon appropriation in such classics as Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd’s Goodnight Moon, Frank Asch’s Moongame, and Kevin Henkes’s Kitten’s First Full Moon. What does it add to this genre? An urban setting and a new conversation between an adult and child who learn that “There is only one moon.”
Rachel Cole reports the dialogue between her two characters from both the mother and child’s perspective, which is more challenging than it might seem:
“We see glittery dots in the sky.
‘Mama, are those other moons?’
‘They’re stars,’ says Mama.
The italics convey the little boy’s response to his mother’s new information. This format is repeated as he learns that the moon is the same moon whether it is reflected in a puddle, hiding behind a cloud, or hovering over a building. The language is simple and sweet, but not patronizing towards the way in which children acclimate the world around them.
The pictures are, to use an astronomical adjective, stellar. Blanca Gómez is a Spanish artist who has also illustrated George Shannon’s beautiful celebration of human diversity, One Family. Although her website is called Cosas mínimas, (little things), the people in City Moon are actually rounded and full. Whether this choice is meant to be realistic or to approach the vision of a child who sees the world as huge relative to his own size, it works. The city dwellers in the book are solid presences grounded in their environment. The buildings and objects in the child’s world range from tall buildings which are personalized with both objects and busy people in the windows: a woman browsing at a bookshelf, a man playing the trumpet, a miniaturized washing machine viewed from a distance. Here Gómez’s aesthetic of minimalism really fills out the child’s vision. There are many other memorable details that reward repeated readings. I like the woman in the hound’s-tooth coat and shoulder bag leaving the page as she crosses the street.
The final pages of the book depict his bedroom. In the first scene, the room is relatively light and his mother stands next to his bed, gesturing at the omnipresent moon. In the last two page spread, his room is dark and he has fallen asleep. Nothing else has changed, as his wind-up toy, tiny car, and stripe shirted bear rest along with him. If you would like a new addition to your child’s bedtime routine, or if you simply want to enjoy a new collaboration between confident images and poetic text, read this book.