Customer Reviews: Many Moons (A Harcourt Brace contemporary classic)
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on May 7, 2006
Despite Rosemary Thurber's reassurances in the introduction to the reillustrated edition that a "new artist's point of view could be exciting," this new version is very disappointing. Louis Slobodkin's weird and wiggly drawings tinged in red and aqua have been replaced by Simont's conventional watercolor illustrations. While they are attractive, they are not, as Booklist describes them, a "bright, refreshing interpretation." Simont duplicates many of the scenes from the original, such as the doctor and king at the bedside of the princess or the princess skipping rope in the garden-though the text does not mention a jump rope. In the original, as the Lord High Chamberlain lists all the things he has gotten for the King, Slobodkin has the items frame the page as the Chamberlain unrolls a scroll in his hand; Simont does the same thing. When the Chamberlain says that the moon is bigger than the Princess's room, Slobodkin places the room inside the moon; Simont does the same thing. A scene-by-scene comparison reveals that Simont simply updates most of the original drawings. The two-page layout of the Princess holding her thumbnail up against the moon viewed through an arched window is an exact duplicate of the 1943 edition. Even the text on the two pages differs by only two sentences. I just do not accept the validity of this so-called "new" interpretation. Simont's literal and conventional depictions of the characters and setting actually move the story to a more ordinary level, while Slobodkin's strange squiggles keep the story in the realm of the imagination and give the tale a dream-like quality. Stick with the original.
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The witty picture book is often considered to be a relatively new phenomenon. In this day and age there's an abundance of sly hip little books like "Olivia" or "Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus" everywhere you look. But clever picture books are by no means a new creation. I invite you to take a gander at the 1940s Caldecott winner, "Many Moons". If you don't find it the most sublime little work of art, I daresay I'll eat my hat.
In this story a little princess of ten years (going on eleven) become ill from eating, "a surfeit of raspberry tarts". The only cure she wishes for is for someone to get her the moon. Her father, the king, calls in his cleverest advisors, but no one can think of a way to bring the princess the moon. The court jester comes up with the answer, though by the end of the tale it is the princess who has shown true wisdom.
Author James Thurber is as equally well known for his witty cartoons in the "New Yorker" as he is for his books and articles. In this little gem he has taken his audience down a notch. Recognizing that wit and long words are just as appropriate for a five year old as a person of fifty, the book contains a series of delightful asides and ideas. For example, after listing his brilliant accomplishments to the king, the Royal Wizard points out that he also gave the king a cloak of invisibility.
"It didn't work," said the King. "The cloak of invisibility didn't work."
"Yes, it did," said the Royal Wizard.
"No, it didn't," said the King. "I kept bumping into things, the same as ever."
"The cloak is supposed to make you invisible," said the Royal Wizard. "It is not supposed to keep you from bumping into things."
"All I know is, I kept bumping into thing," said the King.
That's the kind of stuff I'm talking about. It's funny. It's well-thought out. And it's a joy to read. Coupled with a series of splendid illustrations by Louis Slobodkin (whose style is suspiciously reminiscent of Thurber's own) the text is complimented excellently. If you're ready to read words to your children that consist of lines like, "midgets, and mermaids, frankincense, ambergris, and myrrh", then you're in good hands with this author. To be perfectly frank, rather than write this review I'd love to just copy down the entire book word for word and show you myself how good it is. But then you wouldn't see the pretty pictures and this WAS a Caldecott winner, after all. So I'm just going to have to trust that you understand how supremely good this book is and that you'll rush right out this very minute and get it for yourself. Few books are worth such efforts, but this is one of the few.
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on November 24, 2001
Princess Lenore wants the moon for her very own. And no amount of persuasion, cajolery, or distraction can dissuade her. Being a princess, she is used to getting what she wants...but this requests stumps the king and all his courtiers. Lenore grows ill waiting for the moon to be hers.
How many times did I read this charming book to my daughter? More than we can count. Long after she could read for herself, it was a favorite. My daughter is now 17 and thinking about college. And yet to this day, when we see a crescent moon shining brightly in the sky, we say, "It's Lenore's moon!"
A beautiful, timeless classic, short, sweet, and unforgettable.
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on December 5, 1997
The litmus-test for any children's book, in my opinion, is does it stand the test of time. When the child you gave it to picks it up ten, fifteen, twenty years later, will they still smile and read and say, I *love* this book!
This book passed the litmus-test with me. In fact, I still have the well-loved paperback copy from the years when I was still learning to read carefully set in my bookshelf. Thurber, as many know, is a master of story-telling, and "Many Moons" is moonlight-light and meaningful and absolutely *fun* at the same time, not once "talking down" to the reader. And Slobodkin's watercolors compliment Thurber's prose perfectly. It will be a book the child (or adult!) you give it to will enjoy for years and years to come. At least as long as the binding holds out.
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This book deserves many more than five stars for being the best children's book I have seen in exploring the individuality of perception. James Thurber's marvelous wit is employed in a most Dr. Seuss-like way here to teach a lesson and create a laugh or two in the process.
Princess Lenore (who is 10, soon to be 11) becomes ill when she eats too many raspberry tarts. Gazing out her window, she sees the shining moon. The king, her father, asks what he can do to help her recover. She replies that if he gives her the moon, "I will be well again."
Being a doting father, he sets out to get the moon for her. He calls in each of his wise men, one by one, and they give him lots of reasons why she cannot have the moon. And they also waste lots of time bragging about all of the things they have gotten for the king in the past. In despair, the king doesn't know what to do. He complains to the Court Jester, who makes a most reasonable suggestion. In order to get the moon for the princess, "The thing to do is to find out how big Princess Leonore thinks it is, and how far away."
The answer to the question leads to a temporary solution.
But then, a new problem arises: How to explain when the moon arises the following night. The Princess again helps the Court Jester find the answer.
The story is developed in a most humorous and light hearted way. The satire will be easily understood by even the youngest child. The "wise" men really know nothing, and the "fool" is really wise. But Princess Lenore has the most sense of any of them.
The book is greatly enhanced by loose, free-flowing watercolors in beautiful pastel tones done by illustrator Louis Slobodkin. The book was awarded a Caldecott medal for the excellence of its illustrations, which I felt was well deserved.
This is an excellent book for parents to read to their children, and for parents and children to read aloud together.
After you finish enjoying the book, I suggest that you and your child also consider where else views differ from person to person. How can those differences create harmful misunderstandings? How can those misunderstandings be avoided? In this way, you can help you child learn to listen, ask questions, think carefully, and communicate better. That will be one of the finest lessons you can give . . . after the lesson of exhibiting your unconditional love.
Look at things from the other side!
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on October 6, 2002
The story with a surfeit of delectable images and colorful characters is every child's delight. What adds to the reading pleasure is the curiosity generated by the improbable demand of the young Princess. The young reader is captivated with mounting anticipation as the Court Jester works out the solutions to the problems-twice in the story, while the wise men of the court eat humble pie.
While amusing the grown-ups for the same reasons the story also throws up many interesting points for them to mull over. Here are some of them:
To start with, young children will always come up with unattainable demands, and the parents-doting or otherwise-would do well not to dismiss them offhand. The King chased the impossible dream of his ailing daughter and came out successful.
Next, the story shows that people in power are often prisoners of their own rigid patterns of thinking and doing things. If they must come anything near to solving problems they have to break the shackles of convention. The Lord High Chamberlain was trapped in the web of his bureaucratic achievements and the Royal Mathematician could not think beyond his complex rules of calculation. They, unlike the Jester, did not leave any space in their minds for new ideas to sneak in.
The story tells us to use the perspective of a child, at times, for a change. Innocent and uncluttered minds may throw up fresh ideas, which are often blocked by our mindsets and in-depth knowledge. Only when the Jester decided to look at the problem with the eyes of the Princess did he find that the answers lay in the child herself. Creativity must be nurtured in a mind that is a fresh green pasture. This story has a very good lesson in divergent thinking and would make great reading in the creativity and problem solving courses.
It has a great stress-busting lesson too. We worry most of the time for causes, which do not exist. The King fretted about the unpleasant consequences when the Princess would look at the sky, but did the real moon bother the Princess at all?
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on January 24, 2009
This book was among 8-10 children's books I found at a thrift store, never having heard of it "but it looked kind of good, was in great condition and the pictures were interesting (Slobodkin illustrations)". For .69 I didn't even take the time to glance at what it was about. And WOW!, was I surprised!!

I took a longer look at it prior to reading it to my 4-year old daughter, realized how long it was, and wondered if it would hold her attention. She absolutely loved it and it held her attention throughout. She's asked me to read it every time at bedtime. She retells the story to my husband and her friends, and loves looking at the book page by page on her own.

The story is witty and wonderful for adults as well, and is a great reminder that sometimes adult stress out about things that may actually be very easy to solve. We just have to change some perspective and look through the eyes of a child.
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on August 8, 2003
This book is absolutely a treasure. I read it the first time to my son of six the day he left for an extended visit to his grandparents. Although not exactly a quick read, it held his attention all the way through, and the illustrations fascinated him.
That evening he called and asked me to read it to him over the phone, the whole story, and again he listened just as intently as the first time around, sometimes stopping me to tell me what was happening in the illustration, "now the king looks bored," etc.
I prefer children's books that do not preach to the child, books like Winnie the Pooh (Milne not Disney!), titles from Maurice Sendak, or the Little Bear series. These, as James Thurber's wonderful story, all show and support the integrity of the child over the adult, and this is something we adults should be reminded of more often. As Mark Twain wrote in his forward to Huckleberry Finn: "Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot." So if you're looking for a lovely story to excite your child's imagination as opposed to preaching some message to him or her, look no further. I should add that the text and illustrations work so well together that each reading is sure to reveal new nuances and leave the reader with a beautiful sense of harmony.
The "School & Library Binding" edition is quality-made and will certainly last several generations. Adults who are taken by James Thurber's virtuosic use of language and ideas might wish to check out "Writings and Drawings," a very generous anthology of his works.
By the way, my son didn't buy the princess' idea of the moon. He had his own. I can almost see James Thurber winking.
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on October 19, 2001
Read this enchanting book to children at bedtime. Be sure that the storytime doesn't conclude with the shutting of the book, but instead, with peering through the curtains to the night sky. My two girls loved the tale of the princess who wanted the moon for her very own -- and they giggled in delight at all of the sophisticates and intellectuals who threw up their hands because they could not conceive of a way to bring the moon to the girl. The court jester, who knows how to think like his audience, and hence, think like the princess, figured out an easy way to make the child happy. Would that we all stopped thinking so hard about why things are possible -- and instead -- saw the possibilities that come from seeing life through the prism of the child's imagination.
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VINE VOICEon September 27, 2008
This has to be one of the most hilarious and enchanting children's books ever written. It was written ages ago, and yet it still has such a power over everyone that it might as well be considered a classic (I hope it is) as it artfully combines a fairy tale, humor, and a soft and simple story of caring.

The story begins as the little Princess Lenore falls sick and claims that the only thing that will make her better is if she has the moon. Thus her father the King begins a quest to find someone that can bring her the moon. He consults the wisest in the kingdom, people who cannot even agree on what is what.

Thus comes a surprisingly thoughtful and intelligent story about observation and personal view that is educational as well as enchanting.
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