Poet and Newbery Honoree Kherdian (The Road from Home: The Story of an Armenian Girl, 1979) teams again with his wife, distinguished two-time Caldecott-winning illustrator and author Hogrogian, for this gentle animal fable (Lullaby for Emily, 1995, etc.).
“Bear couldn’t sleep and blamed the light of the moon.” He steals it and stuffs it into his pillowcase. Other animals—Fox, Skunk, Opossum and Raccoon—miss the moon and speculate as to its whereabouts. Crow says to Fox, “You’re the clever one. Where did it go?” Fox suggests asking wise Owl. Hogrogian’s soft, muted watercolors, further grayed by pencil, depict the parade of woodland creatures en route to Owl’s perch, trailing behind Fox’s white-tipped tail. When Owl fingers Bear, Fox and Crow hatch a plan. Crow tells Bear a slumber-inducing story, then he and Fox snatch the pillowcase and release the moon. The happy ending reveals the animals dancing by moonlight while Bear sleeps contentedly on. Within plainspoken text and dialogue, Kherdian weaves a folkloric motif—the moon’s theft and restoration—with child-resonant tropes: mistaken judgment, compelling curiosity and cooperation to right wrongs. Hogrogian subtly characterizes the animals’ emotions and responses without anthropomorphizing them unduly. The keen tilt of Fox’s head indicates acute observation, while Bear’s heavy-lidded eyes and relaxed pose telegraph imminent napping. (Incidentally, only Bear’s gender is conveyed, permitting diverse interpretations for the other creatures.)
Charming. (Picture book. 3-7)