by Sam Juliano
“The Moon is Going to Addy’s House’ is visual storytelling at its very best. The emotional journey of the children is beautifully expressed through Ida Pearle’s stunning use of collage, color, texture, and movement.”—Martin Scorsese
Certainly there isn’t another children’s picture book about our luminous nocturnally-visible satellite that is as resplendent nor as intimately immersive as Ida Pearle’s The Moon Is Going to Addy’s House, and not since Marcia Brown’s paper collage work in the Caldecott Medal winning Shadow has an inanimate object or presence been as pervasively all-enveloping. Renowned filmmaker Martin Scorsese, a visual storyteller extraordinaire, knows what it is like to bring a visceral children’s picture book to the cinema, and asserts the aesthetic kinship between page and screen when it comes to elements like color, texture and movement. Acclaimed award-winning illustrator Brian Selznick, who wrote the book upon which Scorsese’s Hugo was based, is attuned to Brown’s 1983 work by opining that Pearle’s “cut-paper collages dance and play and come to life” in an equally spectacular response to the book. Yet Brown’s specter is one that unflinchingly shows the side in us we’re afraid to confront, whereas Pearle’s celestial spheroid is as reassuring as a guardian angel, one that engenders both glowing cognizance and a measure of celebratory veneration. Whereas the poet Alfred Noyes once wrote “the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas” its role in The Moon Is Going to Addy’s House is far more thematically benign, one that recalls the friendship between the young French boy in Albert Lamorisee’s The Red Balloon, who evinces a human connection to a supposed lifeless entity.
Most descriptions of our moon -among planetary satellites, the largest relative to the size of the planet it orbits- are along the lines of heavily cratered, desolate and somnolent, yet throughout The Moon Is Going to Addy’s House, where the moon is vibrantly colored and omnipresent, there can be little doubt as to how a child views this astronomical wonder. Addy’s moon possesses an energy similar to that of the sun, it pops up anywhere and everywhere, and even comes close to being held, much as the Princess Lenore demanded of her father the King in James Thurber and Louis Slobodkin’s Caldecott Medal winning Many Moons. Throughout literature the moon is portrayed romantically, and for a young child trying to make sense of the world around her it represents a constancy, in effect an anchor from which all activities emanate and work side by side with living things. Addy’s moon is a force of nature, one that leaves nothing from under its radar, undaunted by the traveling from an urban to rural setting, cosmic interference or the point of view of its mesmerized protagonist.
The metaphysical tale is launched as Addy and her younger sister run towards her waiting father who awaits his darlings while kneeling with arms outstretched next to his parked automobile. The swirling expressionist art includes a grayish obscured moon that only seems to want to make its presence unobtrusively. A phantasmagoria of clothing, dogs on leashes and textured murals usher off the family who can see the moon above a building and then under a bridge where it is just as visible. Then it is seen through the windows of a car and subsequently in the sky overlooking tall buildings, and in a remarkable double page spread of the car crossing a long suspension bridge at sunset. The moon is thought to be captured as it appears in the car’s rear view mirror, but is soon the dominant image hovering over a darkened forest. When it is partially obscured by rocks, Pearle asserts “See it hiding beyond boulders?” and then as clouds pass in front of it she adds: “And peaking through clouds?” And then after a mountain gets in the way – “Where did it go?” It is then that Addy makes claim to having discovered the moon’s real intent – it is going to her house! This part of the book contains come of the most breathtaking picture book imagery you are likely to see. First up is the final, revelation: “Oh, now I know,” as the car proceeds over a rock formation, visualized in a bath of pink, blue and purple. The moon is then seen in a pinkish orange, by then having taken over the visual scheme as the girls take their baths. To the poetic passage “It waited to light up my nighttime dance” Pearle then showcases her piece de resistance – a grand pinkish-orange sphere, which serves as a ravishing burst of illumination for Addy to strut her stuff. This is followed by another stunning tapestry of the moon in the yard that recalls Van Gogh’s Starry Night, though cinema fans will note the brush stroke turbulence suggests something out of Von Trier.
Pearle uncannily speaks the language of children with her animated images, fluorescent colors and richly designed simplifications. The astounding bridge double spread with the embroidered boat sails bring the scene to life, while still feeding the embers of imagination, and all the possibilities one can conjure up while under the spell of one of nature’s most constant tenants, one who will never balk at playing referee when the mind’s eye is at its most acute. The Moon Is Going to Addy’s House is one of the most extraordinarily sublime picture books of the year, and a textbook example of how sparing poetic text can be perfectly wed to some of the most brilliant and suggestive imagery the form can offer up. Pearle has created an irrefutable masterpiece, and it seems like a Caldecott acknowledgement is at least as likely as spotting the moon in a cloudless sky.
Note: This is the sixth review in the 2015 Caldecott Contender series that will be published at this site over the coming months, up until the January 11th scheduled awards date. The books that will be examined are not necessarily ones that are bonafide contenders in the eyes of the voting committee, but rather the ones this writer feels should be. The order they will be presented is arbitrary as some of my absolute favorites will be presented near the end.