Friday, May 20

The Moon Jumpers

by Janice May Udry  
pictures by Maurice Sendak  
Harper & Row   1959  

Four children frolic beneath the light of the full moon.  Yup, it's as simple as that.  

On the title page we get a small verse of poetry that sets the tone for the book. 
Summer night is the cool dark grass  
And big tired trees  
With the moon sailing  
On a wind.   
Once the sun has set, the moon is in the sky and Mother and Father are otherwise occupied, the children go outside and do what kids do on a summer night.  They climb trees and dance around and tell ghost stories. And once the Moon Jumpers have had their fun and its time for bed they return sleepily and go to bed with dreams of the morning sun on their minds.  

There is a poetic dreaminess to the text, and so little actual plot, that I am tempted to take the text and submit it to agents just to see if anyone today thought this was commercial enough.  Now, this was a Caldecott Honor Book and I'm going to assume that everyone I would submit the text to would recognize it immediately (right?), but I would still be curious to see how this would be viewed today.  

As for Sendak's art, these are the early years and where he already has his color palate and shading in place for Where the Wild Things Are five years down the road, though the style of his human characters is still very much in progress developmentally.  Their poses and gestures are full and free-spirited (for the kids at least) and there's a glimmer of Max in the facial expressions. 

It's a quiet little book without being cute or cloying.

1 comment:

Heidi Mordhorst said...

I adore this book, and I miss this sensibility. Yes, there is a lot of cleverness out there, and creative twists (not to say gimmicks), but little children can only take so much of that before they need something straightforward and real. You know, real in that dreamy way that IS real for kids.

And weren't we so much younger back then?

Thanks for keeping the spotlight on the past, David.