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If You Were the Moon

If You Were the Moon

Laura Purdie Salas, Illustrated by Jaime Kim
Millbrook Press
32 pp.
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The Moon is a very busy celestial body, and Earthlings are lucky that it is so active. That’s the delightful premise of a new picture book by Laura Purdie Salas and Jaime Kim. If You Were the Moon is aimed at elementary school–aged children, but an ingenious two-layered narrative also makes it accessible for younger children.

Each two-page spread is dominated by one of Kim’s colorful pictures showing the Moon in various guises—a ballerina spinning around Earth, a flashlight to lead newly hatched turtles to the sea, a helpless target for meteorites zipping through space. But in addition to that simple story line, Salas has added a meaty paragraph on the science behind the image. The ballerina, for example, helps explain how the Moon spins on its axis in step with its rotation around Earth, leaving one half always turned to us.

That structure allows the adult reader to tailor the book’s message to the child’s level of interest. The appealing images also add texture: A breaching whale in an ocean playing tug-of-war with the Moon may be more appealing to a 4-year-old than a heavy-duty explanation of tidal forces.

The book can stretch the adult mind as well. A picture of a smiling Moon extending long arms to embrace Earth, for instance, illustrates how the Moon’s presence reduces how much Earth wobbles on its axis. That dampening prevents more extreme weather and bigger variations between winter and summer. Did you know that?

As a bedtime story, If You Were the Moon is a wonderful companion to the beloved Goodnight Moon. And unlike that classic, this new Moon should also help parents answer their child’s inevitable questions about that shining orb in the sky.