a list of…five sparkling stories for moon-and-star gazing

Stars,  by Mary Lyn Ray, illustrated by Marla Frazee

Stars invoke quiet gazing, awe-filled wondering, romance…

This five-star book by two incredibly talented women, romances us with page after page of wondering and remarking about stars — the kind in the night sky, and a number of other kinds of stars, too.

Mary Lyn Ray muses her way through a series of starry thoughts, about the stars that come winking out, one by one in the darkening sky; about sheriff’s stars pinned to your shirt or magical stars sparkling from the tip of your wand; about the shiny feeling inside when you feel like a star, and the dusky feeling when you don’t; about surprising stars that crop up in gardens and lawns  — can you imagine what they could be?  Page after page of quiet wonder.

Meanwhile — Marla Frazee.  Enough said.   Her gentle, winsome illustrations beckon us to bend closer, linger longer.  Graphite, gouache, and gel pen — that’s what she’s used to create dozens of multi-racial children and families, and you’ll wish every one of them was your neighbor. Her perfect details, as well as lots of white space, rivet listeners, yet maintain a quietness that is lovely.  (The secret fort in a hollow tree hung with mossy green stars is sooo enticing!)

This gorgeous book is perfect for lap-sitters, right on up to grandparents.  I love it.

Kitten’s First Full Moon, written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes

Kitten is a pint-sized, marshmallow-creme, curious little thing.  Just now she sees a full moon for the first time ever.  It shines out like a round-rimmed bowl of delicious milk.  Mmmmmmm, good.  Kitten craves that milk.

So, she sticks out her rough pink tongue for a good mouthful of it…but winds up nabbing only a crinkly firefly.  Ptooie!  Not what she wanted!  Kitten tries springing at it, chasing it, climbing to it, all in vain.  Poor, poor Kitten.  When she spies that beautiful, milky moon reflected in the shimmering pond, it looks like an even giant-er bowl of milk, so…she dives for it!  Oook.

What can fill the milky-longings of this bumped, scraped, wet, bedraggled Kitten?  Hmmm…there’s just one possibility.

As always, Kevin Henkes weaves his magic with this perfect storybook for the youngest listeners.  This plucky Kitten is so determined, and looks so woebegone when her determination lands her in one trouble after the next, that she will have utterly endeared herself to little listeners by story’s end.  Henke won the Caldecott for his simple, bold, monochromatic illustrations in gouache and colored pencil, that emphasize the twilit setting, Kitten’s plucky personality, and the glorious, glowing, moon.  A cheerful, satisfying read.

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, an old lullaby by Jane Taylor, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

Twinkle, twinkle, little star…how I wonder what you are…

Not many songs are as familiar as this one (especially to us Suzuki parents!)  You will love it afresh, though, when you take a look at Caldecott-medalist Jerry Pinkney’s spectacular rendition of it.  There’s so much to enjoy!

An adorable chipmunk takes the spotlight, beginning in the lively brightness of morning, continuing as the day-sky deepens to nighttime indigo.  From his first cheerful peek out of the den, spotting the starry-tuft of a dandelion seed floating in the thin blue air, this chipmunk is a busy fellow.  Playing among flowerbeds; commandeering a nest which becomes a grassy airborne sailing ship; encountering assorted creatures of the night; voyaging off among whispering zephyrs and the man in the moon;  tumbling back to earth, right into a harrowing episode in a pond; before finally being rescued and carried off to a snug, downy sleep.  The perfect ending for a lullaby.

This description of the storyline does not nearly capture the delightfully-fanciful journey of this chipmunk, his spunky charm, Pinkney’s warm, glowing colors, the delightful series of escapades which meld from one to another.  Using just the lyrics of this song, which has several verses, and those placed on only a few pages, these deliciously- large illustrations envelop us in their lush, fantastical, starry world.   Send little shavers, 2-years-old and up, off to merry, sweet dreams with this one!

Many Moons,  by James Thurber, illustrated by Louis Slobodkin

“Once upon a time, in a kingdom by the sea, there lived a little Princess named Lenore…One day Lenore fell ill of a surfeit of raspberry tarts and took to her bed.”

Oh, dear.  Lenore is the apple of her father, the King’s, eye.  In pity, he declares that he will give her anything her heart desires.  How could he expect that her heart’s desire was…the moon.

The Lord High Chamberlain is quite used to the King’s particular and peculiar requests, having obtained, in the past, everything from minstrels to peacocks, but the moon, he insists, simply cannot be had.  Likewise, the Royal Wizard, and the Royal Mathematician explain to the king that “nobody can get the moon.”  Thunderstorms are brewing inside the King!    It’s up to the Court Jester to slip into the mindset of the child, and figure out a way to give Lenore the moon.  The trouble doesn’t stop there, however, and Lenore and her jester ally have one more huge headache to solve before the kingdom can take a collective sigh of relief.

Louis Slobodkin won the 1944 Caldecott Medal for his imaginative, dreamy watercolor illustrations for this book.  Delicate washes swish over minimal black lines that swerve and flick to create just the right touch of architecture here, royal train there, tiny Lenore in her much-too-large palace bed.  I think if this book were done today, it would get a more vivid, detailed treatment; Slobodkin sets an enchanting tone, while leaving ample room for the magic and imagination in a child’s own mind.

A delightful slightly-longer story for ages 5 and up.

Lucia and the Light, by Phyllis Root, illustrated by Mary Grandpré

In the deep forests and steep, snowy hills of the Far North, Lucia lives with her dear mother, sweet baby brother, mooley cow, and milk-white cat in a cabin oh-so-snug.  They are happy as buttered toast.  Until…

…the sun vanishes!  Just plum does not shine.  Days of darkness hang heavily upon them.  The winds sharpen.  The cow stops giving milk.  Something has to be done, someone has to seek a remedy, and Lucia determines to do it.  Her mother is wary.  It is a well known fact that trolls thrive in darkness and hide from the sun lest they turn to stone.  In these topsy-turvy times, those terrible trolls are sure to be roaming about the mountains.

Undaunted, Lucia skis off, her way lit only by sparks of starlight.  And wouldn’t you know it, she does run into an entire host of grumpy trolls, eager to eat her up!  How will Lucia outsmart the trolls and rescue the sun?  You’ll have to read to find out, but between Lucia and her companionable cat, the sun is set to blazing cheerfully in the sky once again.  “Light of my heart,” Lucia’s mother calls her as she returns home to live happily ever after.  What a girl!

This delightful, Nordic-style tale, written by a talented storyteller, is full of all the right ingredients for a snuggly storytime.  Mary Grandpré, whom you might know as the illustrator of the U.S. editions of Harry Potter, gives the story glorious familial warmth, frosty windswept forests, and charmingly-horrid trolls, in gorgeous pastel artwork.  It’s a  happy, brave tale for kindergarteners and up.

Here are Amazon links for this twinkly host of stories:


Kitten’s First Full Moon

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star

Many Moons (Books for Young Readers)

Lucia and the Light