Favourite books: I Took the Moon for a Walk
16 June 2008Add to My Folder
Get swept up in the lyrical text and fragile illustrations of I Took the Moon for a Walk
For me, the picture book I Took the Moon for a Walk by Carolyn Curtis, illustrated by Alison Jay (Barefoot Books, ISBN 1841488038) has all the mystery and enchantment that the title suggests. As a child, I remember the wonder of looking at a full moon, trying to see its face, and being intrigued by the way it seemed to follow me around. Now a poet, I love the rhyming text the book is written in, because part of the beauty of poetry is its role in being able to say so much in so few words. The story is also beautifully illustrated.
A boy walks across a rural landscape with the Moon following him, ‘like a still summer kite’. He describes the natural and nocturnal things they encounter, including a choir of dogs and a nest of sleeping robins. He imagines flying with the Moon, delighting the reader with its perspective of the countryside. This is a simple, magical story. Yet together with its subtle visual text of other characters and wildlife inhabiting the illustrations, it becomes a truly memorable book.
Sharing the story
This is a book for sharing slowly, for it takes time and perception to absorb the beauty of the rhyme and the visual text that supports it. Pore over the pages with the children, encouraging them to look for small details. Notice how the Moon changes its expression during its adventures. Discuss the reflections in the river, the positions of the shadows, and the night creatures. When and where did the Moon lose its shoe? Look, too, at the unspoken story in the background. Who are the characters leaving their homes, taking dogs for a walk, and later returning to the same house? How did the church feel when the Moon narrowly missed its spire, and why is the vicar running outside?
Creating a visual text
Most children love to ‘read’ and interpret illustrations. Invite them to use the book as a model to create their own picture storybook, using only drawings but including at least three pages representing a beginning, middle and end. Encourage them to show not only the main story, but also a background story of other characters in the pictures. Then ask them to ‘read’ their story to the group, and invite constructive feedback. Older children can add a small piece of text to complement each page. Finally, staple the pages together as a book, with a title, and let each child write their name as the author and illustrator of the book.
Spending time with rhyme
Rhyming text is a lovely way to give flow and pace to a story, as well as help early readers to remember more easily the words that rhyme. This text has the added pleasure of the repetition and emphasis of the title. One way for children to understand how rhyming text works is to reproduce the story together as a poem. This will show that the format of the poem is in seven verses of four lines each – it looks much longer than the book! Children will quickly spot that the title, I Took the Moon for a Walk, is repeated at the end of each verse. Which way do they prefer to read the story, as rhyming text or a poem?
The Moon’s story
Create a mini-play told from the perspective of the Moon. Provide the children with material for making a moon mask, and construct animal masks to represent the nocturnal animals shown in the illustrations. Develop the story together, using the book as an aid, but also prompt the children for ideas about what the Moon and the animals might say to each other. Darken the room, and give the Moon a torch. Then perform your play!
The robins’ lullaby
Make up a class lullaby for the ‘rust-bellied robins’ in their nest and the squirrel tucked up in a tree. Start by using a few musical instruments, played softly, to represent the light of the Moon, a hedgehog rustling leaves, or an owl’s wings beating. The art will be to persuade the children to adapt their music to the soothing tones of a lullaby, yet at the same time choose the most appropriate sounds for each section. Then ask the children to think of short, calm sentences about these characters, and write them down as a form of free verse. Combine the words with the music, both in tone and pace.
The canine choir
The book describes the dogs as a ‘train-whistle’ choir. Children may have heard train whistles from steam engines at vintage railway stations; if so, ask them to give a demonstration of the various hoots. If not, make some up! Look at the dogs’ faces in the book and imagine what sorts of howls and hoots they are making. Ask volunteers to be members of the choir, and choose contrasting tones of deep and light voices to hoot and hum (softly!) to a beat and rhythm. Link this with the robins’ lullaby, as a chorus.
The mysterious Moon
A lovely bonus to this book is the end pages of child-friendly non-fiction text, which together with the story could lead to a whole project about night-time. This might include holding a class ‘Moon festival’. Darken a section of the classroom, shine a light onto a homemade moon’s face, and invite the children to wear their pyjamas, carry lanterns, eat moon-shaped biscuits, and sing your robins’ lullaby.