As a 20-year-old, I haven’t opened a children’s book since I was a child myself. I vaguely remember some classics like “The Giving Tree” and “Goodnight Moon” that formed my reading experience. Children’s books are not like children’s movies— they’re used as tools of literacy. They don’t have the complexity of movies, no deeper messages or obscure symbols. At least, that’s what I had assumed. But despite its simplicity, “Music for Mister Moon” still manages to convey a message that’s relevant to all ages.
Harriet Henry plays the cello. One day, her parents said, “You will play your cello in a big orchestra. Won’t that make you happy?” Harriet Henry had a big imagination. She pictured herself on the stage with rows and rows of people dressed like penguins. See, Harriet Henry was like every child at the thought of a public performance. She had stage fright. She told her parents, “No, I don’t think that would make me happy.”
Harriet Henry did not want to play the cello in a big orchestra. Harriet Henry wanted to play the cello alone.
In the dead quiet of the night, Harriet Henry used her big imagination to transform her little room into a cellist haven, decorated with everything from a fireplace to a staple teacup. It was the perfect set up for Harriet Henry to perform in solitude. When a noisy owl threatens to disrupt her peace, Harriet Henry — naturally — becomes very upset. She throws the teacup out the window and misses (a tragedy that is entirely too familiar), knocking the moon out of the sky and into her chimney instead.
And so their adventure begins.
Harriet Henry showed Mister Moon around her neighborhood. They stopped by the hatmaker for a hat to put on Mister Moon’s chilly head. They borrowed a boat from the fisherman so that Mister Moon can float on the lake. These interludes are enhanced with a sense of magical realism. The hatmaker and the fisherman are a bear and seal, respectively. Their exchanges, however, transcends any interspecies dissonance. The hatmaker and fisherman are humanized by their fond memories with Mister Moon and their altruistic actions.
In her quest to return the moon back to its rightful place, Mister Moon and Harriet also develop a warm friendship. When Mister Moon confessed his regrets and dreams, Harriet, in turn, thought of her own wishes and worries. Will she be able to muster the courage to share her music to Mister Moon?
“Music for Mister Moon” takes its readers on a fantastical journey to reflect on their own fears. As Harriet Henry and Mister move from one scene to the next, the readers, too, are able to fluidly transition from one notable time in their lives to the next. Although the sentences are sparse, each word is laden with the theme of camaraderie and lost childhood. I was reminded of “Up” and “Peter Pan” several times while reading.
Erin Stead’s muted watercolor illustrations, moreover, are perfect for the serene atmosphere of “Music for Mister Moon.” While examining the pictures, I almost wanted to curl up in my own bed, dreaming of orchestras, penguins and an enchanting moon. It is a lovely children’s book that shows that the support of friends and family are one of the most important tools in conquering your fears and expressing courage.
The story is moving while at the same time relatable for all ages, even jaded college students, such as myself.