Ella by Moonlight

moon-march-9-2008.jpgLast Sunday evening, we were on the way home from a friend’s house, and Eleanor saw something outside her window.

“Look! It’s the moon!”

It was just barely recognizable as the moon, in my opinion — a bright, thin eyelash of a moon, tipped directly upwards towards the sky. The dark side of the moon could be seen clearly above it, a circle of not-quite sky, the color of a faded black T-shirt. It gave me chills.

“Mama, I’m going to fly up to the moon,” said Eleanor seriously, still gazing out the window.

“Oh, on a rocketship?” I asked.

No,” she said firmly. Eleanor is particular about her fantasies. “With my wings.”

“Will you take a walk on the moon when you get there?” Eleanor was puzzled by this question.

“No, I will fly up there with my wings and grab the moon with my two hands,” she explained.

Oh, now I understood — and I was delighted. I couldn’t help but think of the princess in James Thurber’s Many Moons, who insists that the moon is the size of her thumb, is made of gold, and can be worn on a chain around her neck.

On our car ride, Jeffrey and Eleanor continued to chat animatedly about the moon, and said “Goodbye, Moon!” or “There it is again!” as the moon dipped in and out of our view. I was thrilled again, remembering doing just that when I was a child.

As a parent, there are so many happy things I’ve remembered from my own childhood that I’ve gone out of my way to pass on to my kids — the fingerpainting, the digging up of treasured picture books, the carefully preserved Halloween costumes my mother made for me — that I sometimes forget that some of them, like DNA, will be passed down quietly to them, as a matter of course. As gently and quietly as moonlight streaming through a water-streaked window.

If you haven’t read this one, go directly to your library and find it. Do not pass GO. Do not collect $200.


Many Moons by James Thurber, illus. Louis Slobodkin.  Princess Leonore is ill, and says she won’t get better unless she can have the moon.  Her father the king is in a dither: each of his blustery assistants, including the Astronomer, the Mathematician, and the Magician, insist that the moon is too large and heavy for this to be possible, and recommend a series of solutions, each more comically outlandish than the last.  Only the court jester, who spends time listening to Princess Leonore’s own theories about the moon, can save the day.  This is a big-time classic — renowned author, Caldecott-winning illustrations — and on my personal list of Books That Must Be Read By Age 13.  BUT — and this is a big but — it’s long, so save it for reading aloud (it must be read aloud) until your kid is six or seven.  Or relish it all on your own.

4 thoughts on “Ella by Moonlight

  1. That reminds me of one of my all time favorite childhood books: “Owl at Home”. Specifically the short story where Owl thinks the Moon is following home and it keeps ducking behind clouds and Owl starts getting mad and yelling at the moon for following him but eventually they become friends…(at least I think that is what happens – its been a while since I read it.)

  2. Oh, wow — I remember Owl at Home, too! Isn’t that the one where he wants to make a soup out of tears, and sits around thinking of sad things, crying into a jar? Arnold Lobel is crazy, but he rocks. Definitely the sort of story that I don’t think would get published today (more’s the pity).

  3. Yeah that is the book. That tear drop tea story always made me really depressed as a kid. But I do love that book – it has a lot of charm, plus I think it fueled some sort of obsession I have with Owls.

  4. I like that: “sometimes forget that some of them, like DNA, will be passed down quietly to them, as a matter of course. As gently and quietly as moonlight streaming through a water-streaked window.”

    I’m just checking out “Many Moons” – I see there is a new illustrator on the current edition.

    Also love Lobel’s books! There’s the bit where the wind wants to come into Owl’s house too, rmember that?

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