Many Moons by James Thurber and illustrated by Louis Slobodkin (Caldecott Medal Winner 1944)
The first time I heard this story was this past May when I was working with a classroom of 3-5 year old children at a daycare. Readers from the local library came to the classroom and retold the story in various unique ways. They first day, they introduced specific concepts of the story by reading two smaller fiction stories about the moon. Then they presented Many Moons by a verbal retelling with the aid of related objects on a felt board. Finally on the second day, the readers came and presented the story with a puppet show. I thought this was such a unique way to present a book.
The story is of a young Princess who is feeling very ill, and will not get better until she has the moon. The King, willing to do whatever is needed for the health of his daughter, consults his three advisers: Lord Chamberlain, the Royal Wizard, and the Royal Mathematician. Yet, none of them seem able to acquire this vast object for the Princess. Finally, from the wisdom of an unlikely character, the Court Jester, the King opens his eyes to the unique outlook of his daughter and her perception of the moon. With this change in mind, the King finds the perfect way to present “the moon” to his daughter.
While the children enjoyed the story, I thought it had a wonderful message, even for adult readers. I love that the author communicated the theme of valuing others’ viewpoints through the innocence of a young princess. The story showed me how people can have incredibly different imaginations, and the way they view the world shapes how they reason and interact with others. It is astonishing that even a book awarded in the 1940’s still has such a great and applicable message in our world today.