Catching The Moon, by Myla Goldberg

Catching the Moon by Myla Goldberg - illustrated by Chris Sheban

She’s the author of “Bee Season,” but she also wrote a children’s book. Myla Goldberg had described a little girl who robs houses in her first novel in 2000, which had become a best-seller. The little girl came from a dysfunctional family – but are there the same hints of madness in Catching the Moon? Or is it a story about magic?

It starts with an old fisherwoman who stays up all night on the pier. She’s tired each morning, and the other fishermen assume it’s her age. Even the Man in the Moon is worried, as he looks down on her efforts. The woman grumbles when she catches a lobster, saying she’s fishing for something else. But the illustrator foreshadows one of the book’s strange surprises. The bait that she’s using is a live mouse!

The illustrations are absolutely gorgeous, with the round moon filling the sky. It’s shrouded by clouds, and on its dark side is a realistic face. Chris Sheban draws the moon’s face with many expressions, like the face of a person. In one drawing, the moon arrives in a boat – smiling confidently as it rows – and it’s glow makes a silver pattern on the deep blue water by the pier.

The moon wears green sunglasses, and arrives at the woman’s door. “Sea cucumber sandwich?” he says, offering her the plate. The woman is cranky, and “was not one for entertaining guests.” But she shares tea with the moon, as the tide rolls in and soaks her floor. The moon asks about the holes in her house. The woman retorts, defensively, “Who on earth wears nighttime sunglasses?”

What would you say if the moon came for a visit? It’s a wonderful premise, and Myla Goldberg lets it roll magically along. A wave crashes through the door, knocking over the tea cups. It’s caused by the moon, since its gravity draws the tides of the ocean. And when the moon resignedly returns to his row boat – he leaves behind a trail of glowing footprints.

The next month the woman’s fishing line catches a new kettle and two teacups. (The illustrator shows the poor mouse struggling mightily to haul it in.) And the next month, there’s another knock on the door. “What is it?” asks the old woman.

“Moon pie?” came the reply.

They share tea again – and the sticky marshmallow dessert – and the moon asks how her fishing is going. It’s then that he asks why she’s fishing with a mouse, and the old woman shrieked and guffawed. She’d been fishing for the moon, and assumed it was made out of cheese. And then the story comes together. She’s planning to catch the moon, so she can make it stop sending the high tides that destroy her driftwood shack!

But now that they’re friends, there’s another way to solve her problem…

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