While more and more children’s books are published every year, and they do seem to be getting increasingly polished and sophisticated, especially in terms of the high quality of illustrations found in most of the books (possibly because a lot of the art can now be created or edited digitally), a lot of the time, these books seem to be designed to appeal more to adult sensibilities and tastes. In fact, these days, you can hardly tell who’s the intended audience for ‘children’s books’. Consequently, the simple, hopeful — i.e. childlike — innocence that was the mainstay of so many beloved ‘old’ stories, is almost non-existent in today’s children’s books.
Fortunately, unlike bad ’80s fashion, good children’s books never really go out of style — so a book can be published in 1960 and yet still delight a child today as much as it did another more than half a century ago. If that’s not a kind of magic, I don’t know what is.
While Mooncake hasn’t been published THAT long ago — 1983, for the record — it’s definitely an old-school classic that will resonate strongly with children, and take the adults reading it back to a simpler time.
In this book, Bear and his friend Bird are sitting under a tree one night when they begin to wonder what the moon in the sky tastes like; so, Bear decides to build a rocketship that will take him to the moon. However, by the time he finishes, it is winter and Bird has flown away to somewhere warmer. Even though, by this time, Bear is very tired and sleepy, he decides to try out his rocketship anyway.
While the premise and illustrations here seem simple enough, the book’s considerable charm lies in Bear’s seemingly impossible mission and the clever plot device thought up by the author to circumvent traditional logic, and which also allows him to weave in disparate themes — hibernation, numbers, seasons, friendship, adventure — in a believable yet imaginative way. As for whether Bear does eventually get a taste of the moon, well, you’ll have to read the book to find out, won’t you?
p.s. If you like this book, there are other books in the Moonbear series — although, I have to say, this is definitely our favourite.