Title: How the Moon Regained Her Shape
Author: Janet Ruth Heller
Illustrator: Ben Hodson
Publication Date: August 10, 2012 (reprint)
Publisher: Sylvan Dell Publishing
Recommended Ages: 5+
Reviewed by: Renee and Dominic (Mother and Son)
How the Moon Regained Her Shape is a fiction picture book for children. Janet Ruth Heller has written a legend influenced by Native American folktales that explains why the moon changes shape and helps children deal with bullies. The sun insults the moon, and the moon feels so badly hurt that she shrinks and leaves the sky. The moon turns to her comet friend and her many friends on earth to comfort her. Her friends include rabbits and Native Americans. Then she regains her full shape, happiness, and self-esteem, and she returns to her orbit. An educational appendix gives advice about bullying, scientific information about the moon, and ideas for related activities for children.
This book has won four national awards for its lyrical writing and its wonderful artwork. Illustrator Ben Hodson won a Benjamin Franklin Award for this book’s artwork in 2007. How the Moon Regained Her Shape also won a Book Sense Pick (2006), a Children’s Choices award (2007), and a Gold Medal in the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards (2007). The book was also a finalist for the Oregon Reading Association’s 2009 Patricia Gallagher Picture Book Award.
1. In one sentence, what is the book about? This book is about the moon who is dancing in the sky and then she crosses the sun who says mean things to her. She gets very sad and then goes to visit Round Arms on Earth who brings her to see people who love the moon. Then the moon feels happy again.
2. What do you think of the cover and/or the pictures in the book? I liked the pictures. I really liked the pictures of the changing moons in the corners of the pages.
3. What is your favorite part of the book? My favorite part of the book is when the comet comes because he has a boomerang in his hand and I like boomerangs. I really liked all of the story. I can’t pick just one part.
4. What are the most interesting things that you learned from this book? I learned that everyone needs the moon. Everybody has someone who cares about them and loves them.
5. If you could be anything in the sky, what would you be and why? I would like to be an asteroid so that if anybody tried to attack me, I could blow them up. [MOM: Oh dear, I did NOT see that coming! lol]
6. Overall, what did you think about the book? I loved the book. It was a good story and it had really nice pictures.
7. Who do you think would like this book? I think kids who are 5 years and older and their parents would like this book.
Son Rating: ★★★★★
My Thoughts: This book is truly a gem. Borrowing from Native American folklore, How the Moon Regained Her Shape tells the story of the moon who dances happily across the sky night after night until one day she crosses the sun who angrily tells her she is neither needed nor loved. This (literally) diminishes the moon who sinks into a depression and loses the will to walk along her skypath.
Her friend, the comet, notices his friend the moon whose head hangs low and goes to visit her out of concern for her well-being. He recommends that she visits a woman on Earth called Round Arms who greets her warmly and showers her with affection and kindness. Round Arms demonstrates to the moon how she is appreciated and loved by many on Earth. Filled to the brim with joy, she once again becomes full. Poignantly…
“Now, whenever someone insults her and she dwindles, she remembers her good friends on earth. Then the moon regains her strength and fullness.”
What a beautiful allegory to use the phases of the moon (from fullness to “a sliver of her former self”) as a metaphor for the effects of bullying. This is further illustrated by the phases of the moon found in the corners of the pages (as mentioned by my son above). When we first meet the moon, she is happily dancing across the sky and she is full. When the sun is mean to her, she begins her transformation into a waning gibbous (thank you for including images and definitions of each phase of the moon!). As the words continue to haunt her, she slips into a waning crescent until she is nearly invisible. But, as Round Arms shows her kindness, she then begins transforming into a waxing crescent, becoming fuller and fuller until she’s a “full moon” again (i.e., regains her self-esteem). The emotions experienced by the moon mimic the illustrations of the phases of the moon on each page. It is simply brilliant!
Aside from the important lesson in the book about bullying, the illustrations in the book are unbelievably beautiful. Inspired by Native American art, illustrator Ben Hodson created the artwork for How the Moon Regained Her Shape using acrylic paints, handmade papers, old wallpaper, pencil crayons, gesso, and ink on watercolor paper. The result is page after page of visually stunning and inspiring artwork. My son spent about 20 minutes after we read the book just flipping through the pages looking at the pictures. I can’t rave enough about this gorgeous book!
Finally, in the back of the book, there are a few wonderful add-ons. There is a whole unit on the moon and the phases of the moon. Further, in a nod to the importance of the moon in the First Nations/Native American culture, there is a calendar of the various names of the full moons depending on when they occur in a calendar year. And finally, there is a unit on bullying including ideas for who to deal with bullies. This is just such a great book and these add-ons are perfectly appropriate for the themes covered in the book.
My Bottom Line: Based on Native American folktales, How the Moon Regained Her Shape does a brilliant job of using the phases of the moon as a metaphor for the impact of bullying on self-esteem. This book teaches us that insults and unkind words hurt, but that kindness and showing appreciation helps others feel “full” and happy. This simple message is magnificently illustrated through Native American-inspired art. I simply LOVED this book and I highly recommend it to teachers, librarians, and parents who would like to elicit a lively discussion about bullying. I think homeschoolers in particular would find value in this book and could identify a number of additional teaching points as well (e.g., Native American culture, science unit on the moon, etc.).
* This book was provided to us by the author free-of-charge in exchange for our honest review.*