Going to the Moon
I wrote a book about a little boy who goes to the moon, and for me, the hardest part was getting him out of the house. In the story the little boy walks through a moonlit field of bluebells and then into a mysterious forest. He finds a lake and a boat waiting for him at the shore. He gets into the boat and rows out to the middle of the lake and then (be still my heart) dives out of the boat and straight into the moon’s reflection and thus finds a way to reach his goal—the moon.
As a parent, I can hardly think of anything more horrifying than this part of the story. How did he get out of the house this late with only a cat to accompany him? Where are the responsible adults? What’s lurking in that forest? Why oh why didn’t I write a nice little story about a boy who stays in his nice little room and reads a nice little book about the moon to his nice little cat?
There were a number of false starts to this book. In one, the boy puts on his moon boots and blasts straight through the roof of his house. You can see a remnant of this idea in the moon boots included in those beautiful endpapers. But finally, I realised that the only way I could tell this story was to begin it when the boy had already left the house and stepped into this enchanted blue night. And I needed to remind myself that books still are the one place where we know our children can always be safe. And that in the magically safe space that those pages provide we have to allow them to be as a free and as bold as we would have wished to be as children ourselves.
The instinct, of course, is to protect our children. And one of the things I most love about the brilliant illustrations for this book is how the warmly lit house in the cool blue night so perfectly conveys this sense of home as a safe refuge. When it comes to my own sons, I want to be that porch light always burning. But I also know that we have to let our children and their imaginations run free and that once in a while we just have to let them go to the moon.
When the boy in our story finds a boat waiting for him, it could be the same boat that took the boy in Oliver Jeffers’ Lost and Found to return a lost penguin to where he needed to be. Or it could be the boat that the Owl and the Pussycat set out to sea in “for a year and a day.” Or else the boat drawn by Maurice Sendak to take Max to that place where the wild things were. This is the universal boat that conveys you to wherever that place is that you dream of being. And I do love that Ashley Crowley—who is also a parent—provided our particular boat with lifejackets!