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The Picture Book Buzz

Moonlight Memories - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

It's never easy to lose someone we love, especially a parent. And as hard as it is to understand or explain why and how we feel, it is sometimes harder to talk to a child. And even harder for a child to explain their feelings. This wonderful, heartfelt book offers one way to help a child explore and accept their own feelings through art.

Book cover image - a girl on a balcony, surrounded by her drawings, looking at the moon.

Moonlight Memories


Author: Amanda Davis


Illustrator: Michelle Jing Chan


Publisher: Worthy Kids Books (2023)


Ages: 4-7


Fiction


Themes:

Grief, loss of parent, healing, art, and stars.


Synopsis:

Discover how a young girl gains healing and hope as she processes the loss of a loved one in this beautifully sensitive story.


Piper is feeling sad and empty after the loss of her mother. So when her father, who is struggling in his own way, gives her a telescope to console her, she’s excited to explore the night sky. But she doesn’t find stars or planets when she looks through her lens. Instead, she finds a constellation of memories, a treasured collection of big and small moments with her mother, which she hurries to draw before they fade from view. Night after night she sketches, until eventually, she finds herself in a room covered in memories, surrounded by reminders of her mother’s love.

This poignant book offers children a pathway to acknowledge and process their grief over the loss of a loved one. The author's spare and lyrical language provides the emotional depth the topic requires, while allowing parents and caregivers to use the book to begin deeper conversations with their young loved ones. Whether children choose to use art as their outlet or find another way, the message is clear: they can carry the memories of their loved ones with them. An ending Note to Parents features guidance from a licensed children's counselor about how to use the book and where to find additional resources. Written from a place of personal experience, this story strives to bring comfort to children hurting after loss.


Opening Lines:

Mama had been

gone almost a month,

leaving Piper feeling empty.


Empty in her room.

Empty in her sketchbooks.

Empty in her heart.


What I LOVED about this book:

Perhaps to reassure sensitive kids (or adults), the front end page offers a beautiful cameo foreshadowing a turning point in the book. With this text - "One by one, Piper filled her sketchbooks with page upon page of drawings of her and Mama. Each night, she captured another memory." - tenderly encircling the image.

Front end pages with a cameo image of the girl sitting at her desk drawing.

Text © Amanda Davis, 2023. Image © Michelle Jing Chan, 2023.


It also positions the Author's Note by Amanda Davis, explaining how art and writing helped her as a child process her own father's death, on the title page across from this beautiful image of Piper asleep with the pencil and sketchbook next to her. Along with a big, golden, sparkling swirl surrounding Piper in a hug. Pay attention to this swirl, it is an important "character" in the book.

Title page with girl asleep in bed with glasses, blank sketchbook and pencil beside her.

Text © Amanda Davis, 2023. Image © Michelle Jing Chan, 2023.


Despite these gentle initial images, those powerful opening lines accompany this heart wrenching image and are followed by the palpable sadness emanating from Piper in the next two images. Michelle Jing Chan creates such expressive characters and her masterful use of soft colors, light, and a touch of mystery or magic gently draws the reader through this tough story and makes you want to read it again.

Internal image - Piper's room. Girl sitting at a desk, head in hands, sadly staring at a blank paper.

Text © Amanda Davis, 2023. Image © Michelle Jing Chan, 2023.

Mama had been

gone almost a month,

leaving Piper feeling empty.


Empty in her room.

Empty in her sketchbooks.

Empty in her heart.


Trying to help, Piper's father gives her a telescope hoping to inspire "something worth drawing."

Internal image - girl excitedly staring at a telescope. With the moon, star, Big Dipper constellation, and a golden star swirl behind her.

Text © Amanda Davis, 2023. Image © Michelle Jing Chan, 2023.

Piper stared at the gift.

She imagined discovering

splotchy moon craters.


A circus of twinkling lights.

An inky-black sky.

The Big Dipper.


For a moment,

Piper forgot about feeling empty.


I love this illustration, with the sparkling swirl weaving around and through Piper's imaginings of what she'll discover! After Piper assembles, cleans, and focuses the telescope, she finds something more amazing then her dreams. She saw . . .well, I really want you to check out the book. Suffice it to say, something inspires her to draw. Piper "scribbled and scratched" until she fell asleep. Night after night, she draws page after page of memories of her and Mama; hanging them all around her walls. Don't forget to notice when & where you see the golden swirl.


Then Amanda Davis lyrically captures the moment when, true to life, Piper's sadness and emptiness come crashing back upon her; in truly a dark night of her soul. Amanda and Michelle do an amazing job of blending together Piper, her memories, her father, and that special swirl to create the most tender and precious ending, with an added hint at something special happening for Piper's father, too. The end note encourages readers to find their own ways to capture and retain their memories of loved ones. This is a loving tribute to Amanda's father and a stunning reminder to be gentle with ourselves and others as grief has no schedule or specific solution.


Resources:

A remembering ornament - stuffed with mutlicolored ribbons, each representing a particular emotion or a memory of a lost loved one.

- make a memory collage, special treasure box, or a remembering ornament to work through emotions and keep a lost loved one close.

- fill a journal or sketchbook with drawings or descriptions of memories and special things about your loved one.

- look back through the book, how many ballet treasures did Michelle Jing Chan hide in the illustrations?

- check out the "Note to Parents and Caregivers" and resources of organizations at the end of the book.

- pair this with Calling the Wind: A Story of Healing and Hope by Trudy Ludwig, illustrator by Kathryn Otoshi and Remembering Ethan by Lesléa Newman, illustrated by Tracy Nishimura Bishop [two other amazing books on individual ways of approaching the loss of a loved one]. As well as Ida, Always, by Caron Levis, illustrated by Charles Santoso and A Stone for Sascha by Aaron Becker.


If you missed the interview with Amanda Davis on Monday, find it (here).


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

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Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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