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Many Moons (A Harcourt Brace contemporary classic) Paperback – 18 Apr 1973
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[Simont's] buoyant watercolors, full of poignancy and subtle merriment, more than do justice to Thurber's beloved tale.-Publishers Weekly
Once upon a time, in a kingdom by the sea, there lived a little princess named Lenore. When Lenore fell ill, her father offered to bring her anything her heart desired. Unfortunately for the King, Lenore wanted the moon'See all Product description
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Princess Lenore (who is 10, soon to be 11) becomes ill when she eats too many raspberry tarts. Gazing out her window, she sees the shining moon. The king, her father, asks what he can do to help her recover. She replies that if he gives her the moon, "I will be well again."
Being a doting father, he sets out to get the moon for her. He calls in each of his wise men, one by one, and they give him lots of reasons why she cannot have the moon. And they also waste lots of time bragging about all of the things they have gotten for the king in the past. In despair, the king doesn't know what to do. He complains to the Court Jester, who makes a most reasonable suggestion. In order to get the moon for the princess, "The thing to do is to find out how big Princess Leonore thinks it is, and how far away."
The answer to the question leads to a temporary solution.
But then, a new problem arises: How to explain when the moon arises the following night. The Princess again helps the Court Jester find the answer.
The story is developed in a most humorous and light hearted way. The satire will be easily understood by even the youngest child. The "wise" men really know nothing, and the "fool" is really wise. But Princess Lenore has the most sense of any of them.
The book is greatly enhanced by loose, free-flowing watercolors in beautiful pastel tones done by illustrator Louis Slobodkin. The book was awarded a Caldecott medal for the excellence of its illustrations, which I felt was well deserved.
This is an excellent book for parents to read to their children, and for parents and children to read aloud together.
After you finish enjoying the book, I suggest that you and your child also consider where else views differ from person to person. How can those differences create harmful misunderstandings? How can those misunderstandings be avoided? In this way, you can help you child learn to listen, ask questions, think carefully, and communicate better. That will be one of the finest lessons you can give . . . after the lesson of exhibiting your unconditional love.
Look at things from the other side!
The problem is that the Princes Lenoire is "ill of a surfeit of raspberry tarts" and insists that the only thing that will make her well is if she has the moon. Since the King had a great many wise men who always got him anything he wanted he did not think this would be a problem and so he told his daughter she could have the moon. But when he calls for the Lord High Chamberlain he is told the moon is 35,000 miles away, which is too far. The Royal Wizard says it is 150,000 miles away and twice as big as the palace. The Royal Mathematician says it is 300,000 miles away and half the size of the kingdom. The only thing the three wisest men in the kingdom can agree on is that they cannot get the moon for the princess.
The King is upset that nobody can do anything for him and that the Princess Lenore will not be well until she gets the moon. He also knows he should stop asking his wise men what they think because everytime he does the moon gets larger and father away. All the King can do is ask the Court Jester to play his lute. But the Court Jester also listens to the King's problem and comes up with something that the King had not thought of that might actually solve his problem.
"Many Moons" takes a couple of out twists and turns after that, so giving away too much would be wrong. Suffice it to say that this story reaffirms the place of James Thurber as one of America's most renowned humorists. It is not surprising that when "Many Moons" was first published in 1943 will illustrations by Louis Slobodkin it was the winner of the 1944 Caldecott Medal. If the story was told with stick figures it would have won because it is that good of a story. This 1990 edition is illustrated by Marc Simont, who had already done the art for two other James Thurber works, "The Wonderful O" and "The 13 Clocks," and who received the Caldecott Medal as well for his pictures in Janice May Udry's "A Tree Is Nice."
The only problem with "Many Moons" if it gets into the hands of young children is that it may well convince them that it is indeed true that if they ask for the moon their father will get it for them. This is a wonderful story, but it may end up being an expensive one...
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That evening he called and asked me to read it to him over the phone, the whole story, and again he listened just as intently as the first time around, sometimes stopping me to tell me what was happening in the illustration, "now the king looks bored," etc.
I prefer children's books that do not preach to the child, books like Winnie the Pooh (Milne not Disney!), titles from Maurice Sendak, or the Little Bear series. These, as James Thurber's wonderful story, all show and support the integrity of the child over the adult, and this is something we adults should be reminded of more often. As Mark Twain wrote in his forward to Huckleberry Finn: "Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot." So if you're looking for a lovely story to excite your child's imagination as opposed to preaching some message to him or her, look no further. I should add that the text and illustrations work so well together that each reading is sure to reveal new nuances and leave the reader with a beautiful sense of harmony.
The "School & Library Binding" edition is quality-made and will certainly last several generations. Adults who are taken by James Thurber's virtuosic use of language and ideas might wish to check out "Writings and Drawings," a very generous anthology of his works.
By the way, my son didn't buy the princess' idea of the moon. He had his own. I can almost see James Thurber winking.