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Eliza and the Moonchild - Emma Chichester Clark

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Paperback: 32 pages / Publisher: Andersen / Published: 6 Mar 2008

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      28.05.2013 22:33
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      A gentle, magical bedtime story

      One night a Moonchild (a cute, wide-eyed character who looks a bit like a Teletubby) is gazing through his telescope at faraway Earth. Everything in his own world is white so he longs to visit Earth. He wants colours! So the Moonchild slips out of his home and travels down to earth in a cool spacecraft called a moon-zoom. At first he is disappointed that Earth seems rather dark but then he meets a little girl called Eliza who assures him that if he waits until morning, he will see lots of colours.

      As the Moonchild explores, Eliza paints the things they see - a yellow rising sun, a blue sky, red flowers etc. creating a souvenir picture for her new friend to take home, along with the box of paints. Can the Moonchild bring some dazzling colour to his own white world?

      This is a charming story for pre-schoolers. Its magical, dreamy mood makes it perfect for bedtime stories. As always, Emma Chichester Clark provides sumptuous illustrations which are stimulating and eye-catching to young readers without being so busy that they distract from the text. I love how at first the pictures reflect the shadowy darkness of Earth at night time when the Moonchild arrives but become gradually more colourful as the morning unfolds. My particular favourite shows the Moonchild and Eliza surrounded by purple butterflies. This book is a good choice for children who are learning to name colours as it introduces one colour at a time.

      It is a great way to introduce young children to space in a very simple way. In the picture which shows the Moonchild heading for Earth in his moon-zoom, you can not only see the relative positions of Earth and the moon but also stars and other planets in the sky, giving some sense of their distance from Earth. The pictures also illustrate the craters on the surface of the moon. Of course, people don't really live on the moon, let alone have rotary washing lines and skateboard parks on the moon, like Moonchild's family, but the book provides a good balance between fantasy and reality.

      Observant readers will be able to spot a variety of insects and birds hidden in the pictures, if they look very carefully. Sometimes they are quite well camouflaged, so it isn't as easy as you might think. The book certainly makes you reflect on what a beautiful, colourful planet Earth is due to the variety of life it supports. Children with a fondness for creepy crawlies may be pleased to spot caterpillars and ladybirds amongst the leaves and flowers. They are invited to contrast lush, colourful Earth with Moonchild's world. Later on children may be interested to compare Earth to other planets and consider what makes it unique.

      This is essentially a tale of friendship between two children who come from very different places. It sounds out a positive message about respecting different cultures, although fortunately this is done in a subtle not preachy way. The story manages to be quite moving without being annoyingly sentimental. Although they come from different worlds, Eliza and the Moonchild are similar in many ways. They share a lot of interests. The characters are engaging, particularly because they both have a bit of mischievous spirit to them. The Moonchild sneaks off to Earth without telling his mum, and Eliza (perhaps a bit worryingly) is out in the garden in her pyjamas in the dead of night when everyone is sleeping.

      In my opinion, the best children's books are the ones in which a young reader can relate to the characters and can find echoes of his/her own life in the fictional world. Many children will enjoy painting, just as Eliza and the Moonchild do, and the book encourages them to be inspired by the things they see and create beautiful pictures of their own.

      As stories go, it isn't perhaps the most exciting tale but it is simple to follow with a strong beginning, middle and end and a good balance between words and pictures, so I feel it should hold a young child's attention well. I also feel that its space theme will trigger curiosity.

      The language is expressive but there are no complicated words. There is some repetition of particular phrases throughout, such as "Do you like that?" when Eliza paints something and the Moonchild's enthusiastic response, "I love that!" As children listen to the story they will be able to anticipate these phrases and join in with them, making the story a more interactive experience. There isn't so much repetition though that the story becomes monotonous, but just enough to provide reassuring familiarity to young readers.

      I would certainly recommend this book for reading aloud to pre-schoolers or for slightly older children to attempt to read independently. Although it is a lovely story just to be taken at face value, slightly older children might consider whether Eliza dreamed the whole thing, so it is capable of different interpretations.

      Eliza and the Moonchild is available new from sellers at Amazon.co.uk from £1.80.

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