[Nonfiction Monday Reading] Of Moonbeams and Grandparents’ Love: Moonshadow and Ladder to the Moon

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Myra here.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (and brainchild of Sheila at BookJourney). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community.

Last Week’s Review and Miscellany Posts

Here are a few of the reviews we have done last week. We are also inviting everyone to join our Award-Winning-Books Reading Challenge. We hosted the AWB Challenge last year and we are thrilled to be able to host it again. Do sign up if you are looking for exciting reading challenges with monthly book prizes. Click on the titles/images below to be taken to our blog posts.

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[Photo Journal/A-Z Photo Challenge] C is for Carnivale – Fats

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Poetry Friday: The Art of Disappearing by Naomi Shihab Nye

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[BHE 63]: Book Splurge and More Loss-Heartbreak-Coming-of-Age

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I always enjoy it when I am able to tease out little subthemes from our main theme. Here are two picture books that deal with grandparents’ love and celebrating life.

IMG_7537Moonshadow

Story By: Gillian Lobel
Illustrated by: Karin Littlewood
Publisher: Gullane Children’s Books, 2009
Borrowed the book from the public library. Book photos taken by me.

The story speaks about how swans head “to the warm sun and the green fields” when the leaves turn and the wind is just right. It also introduces the reader to Moonshadow and his grandfather who heads the entire flock into the warm lands to avoid the winter chill.

Moonshadow is apprehensive that his feathered wings might not be strong enough to glide through the wind in what will be an intensely long and arduous journey, but his grandfather assured him:

“I will lead you, by sun and stars, as my father did before me.”

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The language in this picture book is beautiful and the artwork equally gorgeous with its shades of blue: turquoise, aquamarines, ceruleans, periwinkles. I especially loved it when they reached the North Pole and Moonshadow was awed by what he could see in the skies:

The sky was lit by sheets of swirling lights.

“Whatever is it, Father?” cried Moonshadow.

“The Dancing Lights of the North,” said Father. “They shine for us!”

IMG_7541Perhaps it is my affinity with the swirling northern lights that made this book an instant favourite. As our theme deals with loss and grief, you might already suspect that Moonshadow’s grandfather passed away during the storm. I leave it to you to discover whether the flock was able to find their way into the “green hills and checquered fields” and how Moonshadow grew from his grief and this beautiful experience of flight.

NonFictionMonday

We are also joining Nonfiction Monday this week. Our host is Wrapped in Foil.

IMG_7683Ladder to the Moon

Story ByMaya Soetoro-Ng
Illustrated by: Yuyi Morales
PublisherWalker Books, 2011
Borrowed from the library. Book photos taken by me.

I read this book at our Sunday breakfast table over chocolate-chip pancakes and brewed coffee and I knew I just had to read it aloud to my husband and eleven year old daughter – the narrative is exquisite with just the right amount of magical realism and the artwork has left me gasping with delight with all its colourful swirls and muted shades and texture.

One cool new evening,

Suhaila asked her mama,

“What was Grandma Annie like?”

“She was like the moon,” her mother replied.

“Full, soft and curious.

Your grandma would wrap her arms

round the whole world if she could.”

IMG_7684And so begins this beautiful book that has brought unbidden tears to my eyes with all its attempt to cover the expanse of the universe as Suhaila met his grandmother through a ladder that led her directly to the moon.

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Based on Georgia O’Keeffe’s painting Ladder to the Moon, this book speaks of boundless service and strength through stories as seen through “swirls of mist” and “sweet moon-dew from silver teacups.”

Georgia O'Keeffe's Ladder to the Moon

Georgia O’Keeffe’s Ladder to the Moon

It teaches a young girl to listen closely to people’s anguish; feeling prayers through clasped fingers be it from the steeples of cathedrals or a synagogue, a mosque or a temple; and washing one’s eyes through seeing, as young Suhaila begins to “know more than she had known before.”

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It speaks of a world without hatred, of peace borne out of a celebration of diversity, and a realization of people’s connectedness through “hope’s great stream.”

I only found out at the end of the book that the author, Maya Soetoro-Ng is US President Barack Obama’s half-sister, and that she wrote this as a tribute to their mother who had never met her grandchildren. As she explained in her Author’s Note:

My daughter Suhaila was born a full decade after my mother died of ovarian and uterine cancer. Becoming a parent made me think of my own mother with both intense grief and profound gratitude. More than anything, I wished that my mother and my daughter could have known and loved each other. I hoped that I could teach Suhaila some of the many things I learned as I grew up witnessing my mother’s extraordinary compassion and empathy. It was then that I decided to unite grandmother and grandchild through a story in which my mother could meet one of her granddaughters and share the moon with her.  

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They could become part of the moon’s light, and as Suhaila climbed the ladder, she would climb towards a more expansive vista and learn the meaning of service. She would watch her grandmother heal and shelter those who had suffered through natural and man-made tragedies, and eventually become the one to reach down, help up and heal.

This is definitely one of my best reads this year. Here is a video clip of Maya talking about this gorgeous book. Watch it and be inspired.

Currently Reading…

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I brought this to Manila with me: John Knowles’ A Separate Peace, a coming-of-age novel that came highly recommended by my good friend and our featured Academic here in GatheringBooks, Professor Tuting Hernandez. Truly a beautiful read. I finished this book in two days. Now finishing Bradbury’s A Sound of Thunder.

How about you, dear friends, what have you been reading this week?

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9 Comments on [Nonfiction Monday Reading] Of Moonbeams and Grandparents’ Love: Moonshadow and Ladder to the Moon

  1. Oh, Moonshadow looks wonderful, Myra. I also just read Ladder to The Moon and adored it-what a story. And I have taught A Separate Peace several times through the years-an interesting book. You are a busy woman! My next is a YA so recommended, Beholding Bee. Looking forward to it!

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  2. Ladder to the Moon looks and sounds beautiful. I’m pretty sure there is no better way to experience a book than with a delicious breakfast and a good cup of coffee!

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  3. These are all so lovely…thanks for sharing. Enjoy!

    Here’s MY MONDAY READING POST

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  4. Moonshadow looks beautiful. I will be looking for it at the library. I also read Ladder to the Moon and loved it. Wonderful line up of reads! So inspiring :)
    -Reshama
    http://www.stackingbooks.com

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  5. What a great week. The illustrations are fabulous.

    ENJOY your week.

    Elizabeth
    Silver’s Reviews
    My It’s Monday, What Are You Reading

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  6. Myra, It is good to see you. It has been too long since I’ve stopped by.

    I thought Moonshadow looked lovely, and then I reached Ladder to the Moon. It is gorgeous without knowing the story behind it, and then after listening to the interview, it just becomes richer.

    Definitely will follow your example and pair it with chocolate-chip pancakes.

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  7. Hi Myra! Some gorgeous picture book pages you have featured this week. Thanks for inspiring me to slow down and just be awed. I see I am not the only one who does breakfast read alouds! Some books just must be shared with everyone!

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  8. The illustrations in Ladder to the Moon are exquisite. A Separate Peace was one of my favorites in high school. I need to read it again. I second Roberta. I need to come here more often. Your posts are always full of beautiful images and words.

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  9. Love the illustrations! Have you heard about /read FArTHER by Grahame Baker-Smith? It came out earlier this year and the summary goes: “When a father who dreams of flying goes off to war and does not return, his son decides to make the dream come true. Grahame Baker-Smith’s moving story, with stunning illustrations, shows how, with love and a bit of ambition, you can reach seemingly impossible goals.” It may not necessarily fit your theme though.

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