Frank Asch's Happy Birthday, Moon
Children's book review by Suzanne Edison.
Ages 18 months—5 yrs. (but grown-ups love it too!)
A classic Moonbear book
This was the first of many Frank Asch books about Bear (or Moonbear) that I read to my daughter starting at a very young age. The innocence of childhood is Bear’s domain. He longs for a friend and finds the moon “echoes” back his deepest wishes and desires. Oh, that all of us, even grown-ups, were heard so well!
One night Bear looked up at the sky and thought, wouldn’t it be nice to give the moon a birthday present.
So opens this deceptively simple idea of a child wanting to give a birthday present to a friend and trying to find out, by talking to the friend (moon), what he wants.
Happy Birthday, Moon
When my daughter was 4 she gave her ‘best friend’ presents that often were presents she would have liked too. How did she know this about her friend? Talking and playing together.
Bear has to figure out what the moon wants but the moon doesn’t talk to him initially. Bear has to go on a bit of an odyssey and travel across a river in a canoe, hike through a forest and climb a mountain to get close enough to the moon to talk to him. Real friendships require effort.
When Bear is “much closer to the moon,” he calls out and moon answers. It is Bear’s own voice echoed back but he doesn’t realize that.
When Bear asks, “When is your birthday?” the moon asks him the same question. Bear answers, “Well it just so happens that my birthday is tomorrow!” Of course moon’s is too. What joy!
Bear wants to know what moon would like for his birthday and when the question is repeated to Bear, he gives the answer, “I would like a hat.”
Bear is thrilled he can satisfy moon’s wishes for the exact birthday present and rushes back home to rob his piggy bank. The next day he makes another journey, downtown, to find moon a beautiful hat.
That night he puts it up in the branches of a leafless tree and waits as the moon rises, thereby “trying on the hat.” Moon seems to hang like a beaming face beneath the hat, fitting it perfectly. Bear feels great that he was able to give his friend the thing he wanted. And he goes to bed.
Happy Birthday, Moon
Most of the story takes place at night of course because that is when Bear can see the moon. The soft, simple shapes of mountains, trees, hat and moon seem to ‘echo’ a young child’s dream or vision of landscape. The color tones of the whole story, even the daytime hours, are muted, quietly lulling us into a dreamlike state or inner world. Happy Birthday, Moon is a great book to snuggle up with and read to your little one at bedtime.
Moon’s hat is blown off the tree at night and in the morning Bear finds it on his own doorstep. He believes moon has given him a hat too. (Only a best friend, or parent, would know exactly what he wanted.) Then a gust of wind takes the hat off his head and it’s lost.
Bear reenacts his journey to find and talk with the moon. On top of the mountain once more, he confesses to moon that he’s lost the hat. Bear finds out that moon too has lost his hat. Miraculously he is forgiven, “That’s okay, I still love you!” Bear shouts and moon echoes back. And that love just might be the best birthday present of all.
Happy Birthday, Moon at Amazon.
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