When I was 12 years old my younger sister lost her beloved teddy in the ‘Ladies’ at Kirkaldie & Stains, in the big city. This was the bear that went everywhere, shared every meal, every thought and every song. She was devastated. So much so, that she wouldn’t sleep all night. Eventually we all piled into the family Morris Minor and head back to the store to search for it. We eventually tracked it down in the accounts department, where some well-meaning soul had rescued it, and the two were once again reunited.
That story came to mind as I read this tale to my own children, and I was very quickly reminded of the beautiful, intimate and unique relationships that children often have with their own individual ‘friends’. These soft toys come in to their lives by many different paths – birthdays, Christmas presents, rewards, souvenirs from overseas, inherited treasures. No matter how they come by them, a child will often place their entire life – imagined and real – into that toy, so to lose it is all the more crushing.
That’s the underlying premise in this small tale by Elizabeth Pulford and Kate Wilkinson. Pulford writes with empathy for the child, and not the adult. We’re often very quick to replace the toy; tell the child to move on, deal with the loss – and in return, perhaps they may not invest as much into their next toy. Of course not all kids are as intense and for them the story has a different edge. This one is about responsibility; about picking up before you leave the park, being aware of your possessions when you’re out.
In Finding Monkey Moon, on a cold wintery night Michael realises he’s left his favourite toy out in the world. Through limited words, simple language and delicate coloured pencils a quiet, familiar story unfolds, as four-year-old Michael and his father retrace his earlier steps to rescue his ‘friend’.
The book has another subtle theme going for it, too. The main characters – Michael and his Dad don’t argue or grumble. They simply just pull on their coats, grab their torches and head out to find Monkey Moon. They search under the kennel, in the bushes, at the playground, in the dark. As they call out, Michael reflects on what it’s like to be forgotten, alone in the snow, abandoned. It motivates him. It’s a rescue in the old fashioned way, within Michael’s imagination, with Dad taking a solid leadership role while teaching responsibility by stealth.
Reviewed by Tim Gruar
Finding Monkey Moon
by Elizabeth Pulford, illustrated by Kate Wilkinson
Published by Walker Books