Books are often compared to bridges, windows, tickets, doors, or teleportation. Reading allows us to experience unknown or impossible things vicariously. But when I read Your Moon, My Moon, there was no comparison. This book is not “like” a window or “like” teleportation. This book aims to take us there.
So where is “there”? On one side of the world is a grandmother in New England; half the world away is her grandson in Africa. Missing him, she tells him what they’d do together in each other’s hemispheres. The words fall simply but look like poetry. Similar yet contrasting phrasing such as “A snowflake falls where I live…The sun is hot where you live” is rhythmic and comforting, tracing a way back and forth between Here and There.
But though their hemispheres contrast, distance doesn’t go so far as to make them antonyms: for instance, as she counts snowflakes “One, two, three,” she tells him that he can count fire finches, “Four, five, six.” She brings him nearer with the suggestion of counting together. It doesn’t matter what or where they’re counting; following number with number, his after hers, is a way to meet halfway. He can close the distance by completing her sentence, as though they were standing side-by-side. Eventually, she reassures herself as much as her grandson, they will have to touch a common point… like the moon her grandson reads about so avidly.
If the words try to bridge the distance, the illustrations try to make it fall away altogether, mixing wistful with real. We don’t just see what’s going on; the details are so intricate that we are let into what’s going on. We are brought so close that when they read together, we read over their shoulder, African light slanting through the window. I felt like I could stroke the backs of her grandson’s three dogs, and they would be warm. An ice skater brushed past me, and an African boy looked over curiously. When her grandson reads about the moon, it engulfs the page; he has no backdrop but outer space. Their facial expressions — eagerness, nostalgia, joy — evoke those feelings in us.
Your Moon, My Moon shows the strength of love with a nod to the power of books. It is so vivid, its perspective so near, that the pages seem to dissolve; we can almost reach through, the people and their surroundings close enough to touch. And that is the point. MacLachlan and Collier are well aware of books’ ability to transport things or ideas; the grandmother refers often to reading with her grandson, noting that he loved the train book even though he’d never seen a freight train. If books and imagination can bring her grandson a freight train or make the moon loom large, what better use is there for that power than to try to bring faraway people closer to each other?
MacLachlan dedicates the book to her granddaughter in Tanzania, but it is, as Collier says, for anybody missing anyone. In a sense the book becomes a souvenir — as in, “to come to mind,” “come up”. As in, Come here. It is a tangible reminder that out of sight does not mean out of mind; it embodies the act of keeping loved ones in your thoughts, where they’re closer than geography allows.
This book could work well with Mirror, a mostly wordless book contrasting Australian and Moroccan culture, or While You Are Sleeping, a flap book that explains time zones by comparing activities done around the world throughout the day. The latter book’s equality is a welcome touch, talking to a child from each country in turn. Clock hands touch everywhere. And even though we might not all be sleeping at the same time, so does the moon.