An eccentric boy takes the Moon for a late evening stroll. (That’s the Moon, not any old moon). The Moon is an uncommunicative but loyal companion. I love Alison Jay’s old fashioned cracked-glaze illustrations: round-bellied animals and buildings with faces. The china is always Spode. Her attention to detail is flawless: a small moment in one scene (a dancing dog on a dish) might be the star of the next page.
Evie (23 months) and I are also big fans of her ‘Welcome to the Zoo’, ‘Christmas Time’ and, especially, ‘Alphabet’. But I always push for ‘I took the Moon for a walk’ at bedtime. It’s better than ‘Alphabet’ at such moments, because it has actual words to read: otherwise the tired parent has to work hard and make conversation about the drawings. Luckily it’s never very difficult to find something to say when an Alison Jay book.
The rhythm of this Moon poem is so calm and satisfying that I’ve not yet minded reading it over and over. My husband even claims that a line borders on Waitsian (as in Tom): ‘while the neighbourhood dogs made a train-whistle choir’. This might be overdoing it, but you take your bedtime story pleasures where you can (or which more, or rather less, below).
My favourite verse:
We danced ‘cross the bridge where the smooth waters flow.
The Moon was above and the Moon was below,
And bright in between them I echoed their glow
When I took the Moon for a walk.
Like all good bedtime stories, it ends with most of the characters asleep, during which the Moon ‘thanked me by sharing its sweet sleepy light’. The quiet ending is another reason for choosing it over Jay’s ‘Alphabet’ which ends with two people and several other animals riding a large zebra’.
Close to the other end of the ‘please choose this one’ bedtime reading scale is anything featuring Maisy. Maisy must be the most subversive character for tiny children. She’s clearly a toddler, and enjoys doing the same things as they do: dressing up, riding her tricycle, playing with toys. And yet she lives ALONE in an enormous house. She even cleans the kitchen floor.
She goes on holiday with no one but Cyril the Squirrel for company, yet when they get to their hotel she takes her toy panda to bed with her. And then she writes postcards home?!? Her best friends include a crocodile and an elephant, but she has a pet cat. Again: what?!?
The oddest Maisy story is one about bathtime. Tallulah (a duck) arrives, hoping to play tennis. Maisy can’t because it’s time for her bath. Just as she’s climbing in, Talullah turns up again. Hasn’t she got the message? Yes, she has: without a word, she rips off her clothes and joins Maisy in the bath. Maisy has a very good social life indeed.
These books are alchemy for little ones. They can’t get enough of her freaky home-alone toddler-householder lifestyle. Good for Lucy Cousins, problematic for the rest of us.