The Picture Book Buzz

A Fort on the Moon - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

As a child, and then when I had young children, I loved making forts of blankets, boxes, chairs, couches, and cushions. These were forts on the moon, submarines, caves or treehouses in the jungle, airplanes, and pirate ships. After hours of play, they became wonderful, quiet places, often bulging with books and lit by flashlights.


Although it might be sacrilege to say, Where the Wild Things Are is not a favorite book of either myself or my kids, I have always been intrigued by its "ambiguous" ending. While logically, Max could not have left his room, it still tickles the imagination to think that he did. What happens when you combine creative fort building and a ton of imagination? A book where the creative inventions and imaginations of two brothers take fort building out of this world.

A Fort on the Moon


Author: Maggie Pouncey


Illustrator: Larry Day


Publisher: Neal Porter Books, Holiday House (2020)


Ages: 4-8


Fiction


Themes:

Brothers, imagination, creativity, the moon, and invention.


Synopsis:

A boy and his older brother hatch a plan to return to the moon for the fourth time in their homemade rocket. This time, they're going to build something extra-special.


Using a bunch of "junk" their mom left in a heap by the back door, brothers Fox and Dodge Wilder blast off by night for their fifth trip to the moon. They strap into their old car-seats and put on their protective bike helmets and winter coats. Ready for lift off!


When they land, they set to work on a magnificent fort. It's hard work, and sometimes they face setbacks, but Dodge knows he can always turn to his older brother for inspiration. When they're done, they return to the comfort of home and breakfast


Did the trip really take place, or was it only in the kids' imagination?


A Fort on the Moon will resonate with any child with a passion for fantasy, adventure, and invention, and parents are sure to love the heartwarming bond of two brothers in a world of their own.


Opening Lines:

My brother Fox Wilder

knows everything about the moon.

Sometimes we go there in a spaceship

we made from odds and ends we

found around the house. We call it

The White Dolphin.


What I Liked about this book:

In a celebration of imagination, creativity, and loving friendship, two brothers use their building and scavenging skills to build the ultimate play structure - a fort on the moon.


The slightly wordy text alternates between matter-of-fact statements by Dodge, the younger brother narrator, such as: "We load our materials into the ship, things Mama called junk!" "It is cold on the moon." and "We scoop and tie, stack and lean, pitch and whack." And beautifully lyrical text, such as: "We lie in our beds, as still as moon craters, til . . . the ribbon of light beneath our door disappears into darkness." and "The giant full moon beams down on us like a lighthouse in the sky."

Text © Maggie Pouncey, 2020. Image © Larry Day, 2020.


Interspersed throughout the book are comments by the older brother, Fox, about the patience, bravery, and determination of adventurers. These skirt the edge of being preachy, possibly because they are coached in the love and admiration of Dodge for his brother Fox and sound just like a younger child parroting an older sibling.


Once their parents are asleep, Fox and Dodge climb "corkscrew stairs" to the roof's widow's walk with handfuls of unwanted items. Once their ship is loaded, they strap in and blast off for the moon. I love Larry Day's depiction of their spaceship, The White Dolphin, created from the imaginative use of wheels, ribbon, a pool noodle, a plunger (joystick!), and old booster seats. As well as all the various odds and ends tucked or strapped to the spaceship, such as the broken hockey stick, umbrellas, and a dead plant. Day's beautiful watercolor and gouache images of space, the distant earth, and the boys on the moon are stunning.

Text © Maggie Pouncey, 2020. Image © Larry Day, 2020.


After the brothers arrive on the moon, ensure their safety by strapping together, and play a bit, it is time to build their fort. I enjoyed how Maggie Pouncey wove through the story facts about gravity, moondust, and astronauts.

Text © Maggie Pouncey, 2020. Image © Larry Day, 2020.


When things don't work out, Dodge's narration focuses on HIS feelings of frustration, trying not to cry, and of wanting to go home. I love how Larry Day not only captures the collapse of the fort and Dodge's quivering face, but also shows us Fox's anger and his tantrum. Determined not to give up, or let his brother give up, Fox distracts his Dodge with dancing, somersaulting, and making moon angels.


Wait until you see the fort they create. There are so many fascinating and wonderous recycled items to find. This is a fun tribute to a loving sibling relationship, creativity, and imagination. A book that could inspire young astronauts to dream of space missions, budding engineers and architects to imagine exciting creations, and future ecologists to find creative uses for discarded items. It's a perfect book for homebound kids to encourage the creation of their own forts and adventures.


Resources:

- check out this wonderful activity kit - https://holidayhouse.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/A-Fort-On-the-Moon-Activity-Kit.pdf.

- recycle discarded items ("trash") in your house to make crafts - https://www.thesprucecrafts.com/top-trash-to-treasures-crafts-1254258. Maybe even design your own space ship.

- write a story, or draw a picture, of a fort (or other building) you'd build on the moon or your favorite planet.


If you missed it, be sure to check out Monday's interview with Maggie Pouncey (here).


This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.

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