Friday, May 4

Little Moon Dog

by Helen Ward
illustrated by Wayne Anderson
Dutton 2007
(originally Templar Books 2005 in Great Britain)

When the tourists come for their annual visit to the moon the Man in the Moon and his Little Moon Dog shutter themselves in their home and hunker down for some quiet time. The tourists (later referred to as fairies, which they resemble) make faces at the Little Moon Dog while his master dozes in a chair. The boredom is too much for him and the Little Moon Dog escapes out the back door to play with his new friends.

The fairies are little demons, fixing the Little Moon Dog with wings and teaching him how to steal plums and drop them down chimneys. When it comes time for the tourists to leave they have so captivated Little Moon Dog that he finds himself spirited away with nary a care for his master.

Once in the shady wood (of a nearby planet?) the tourist fairies soon tire of Little Moon Dog. As the fairies taunt and tease him Little Moon Dog realizes they aren't his real friends and he is lonely. Waking to find his companion gone, the Man in the Moon sets about to retrieve his lost friend, bringing him home in a makeshift ballooncraft where they vow that the next time the tourists come they will escape on vacation together as well. The whole things wraps up with a little moral, which I will soon enough share.

First, I have to say I was a bit confused about how there is a hermit on the moon who gets visited by fairies that live on another nearby planet. I mean, does it need to be the moon, simply so it can be a Moon Doggie? Can't it just be set in an enchanted place? Everything about this book screams fairy-forest and the imposition of the interplanetary setting give the whole a sterile feel. The faux ugly-naive artwork doesn't help either.

I'm also not a big fan of books that utilize a delicate, arty font meant to highlight the fairy-like quality of the story but does little more than make it seem all the more precious. It's as if to say to the reader, in the most patronizing of tones, Now THIS is a SPECIAL story. I find it equally distasteful when some words are highlighted in BOLD to add EMPHASIS even in moments where it doesn't seem WARRANTED. Just as capital letters in email and text messaging have the effect of shouting, so to goes the feeling in children's books where the story suddenly feels as if certain words are being SPOKEN in a loud, CONDESCENDING voice from an old lady who smells like FLOWERS, LOTS and LOTS of FLOWERS.

As if that weren't enough, the story ends on this charming little note:
For the Man in the Moon AND Little Moon Dog know...
There is nothing quite so NASTY as a fickle FAIRY and nothing quite so NICE as a faithful FRIEND.
And nothing quite so dreadful as a book that needs to club the innocent over the head to make its point.

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