From School Library Journal
Kindergarten-Grade 4—Young Moonshadow embraces the wisdom and warmth of his grandfather before his family of swans prepares for a long and perilous journey south for the winter. Curious about the change that comes with migration, different seasons, and his ability to fly that far, the cygnet is comforted to learn that in years past his great grandfather successfully led the way to warmer lands. The flock's journey takes flight and they press on through day and night, stopping only when rest is needed. Moonshadow experiences the mesmerizing Northern Lights, the beauty of picturesque towns, and the dazzling sea speckled with islands. As his weaker and inexperienced wings flail through an unexpected and dangerous storm, his parents guide him to safety, only to find that Grandfather didn't make it. Moonshadow's father leads the flock to its destination, where it is explained to the youngster that he will someday lead as well. Lobel skillfully moves the plot forward while creating appropriate character development for Moonshadow, who copes with change and death. The subject matter is addressed with gentle purpose, especially the issue of "life cycle." Littlewood's combination of watercolors and gouache on textured paper of light and dark hues adds to the moods and movement of the book. The pictures capture the elements of nature in both harsh and calm circumstances. A few well-crafted, subtle metaphors provide this captivating title with real substance. The illustrations combine perfectly with outstanding storytelling.—Anne Beier, Hendrick Hudson Free Library, Montrose, NY
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Moonshadow sees the other swans flying high, crying “Going South!” and asks his grandfather what it all means. He learns that he and his family will start their own journey soon, with Grandfather in the lead. The swans fly through snow and sunrises, over the sea, until Moonshadow is so tired he feels he can’t go on. But go on he does, until a fierce storm almost causes him to fall. The strong wings of his parents beneath him help keep him aloft. Alas, one member of his family does not make it. Grandfather may be gone, but Moonshadow’s father vows to take his place, as Moonshadow will in turn. The idea that “Grandfather will always be in our hearts, where nothing can take him from us” is hardly subtle, even for this age group. But the words and images may comfort children who are grieving for someone they loved. Certainly, Littlewood’s watercolors, with sweeping landscapes and moments of family love, will attract an audience. Grades K-1. --Ilene Cooper