Imani's Moon: JaNay Brown-Wood & Hazel Mitchell
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This Is a Moose: Richard T. Morris & Tom Lichtenheld

Book: This Is a Moose
Author: Richard T. Morris
Illustrator: Tom Lichtenheld
Pages: 48
Age Range: 3-6

What is it about moose in picture books? They are always causing trouble. First it was the moose in Kelly Bingham and Paul Zelinsky's Z is for Moose (and sequel). Now we have a moose who wants to be an astronaut in This Is a Moose by Richard T. Morris and Tom Lichtenheld. 

An increasingly frustrated director named Billy Waddler (unseen until the end of the book) is trying to film a documentary about a moose. But the moose, by professing to want to be an astronaut, does not meet the director's expectations. And when the moose's lacrosse-playing grandma shows up, followed by a giraffe who wants to be a doctor (and doesn't even belong in the film's forest setting), things get out of hand. 

This Is a Moose is pure fun. There are some actual details about filming, and a glossary is included at the end, but one knows from the earliest pages that This Is a Moose is a book that doesn't take itself too seriously. Here's a snippet, to give you a feel for Morris' text:

""Cut! Cut! CUT!!
Listen to Me! All animals
are going to play their proper
roles from NoW ON!! Understood?

This is a moose--
Take Five!"

"But we can't
Take Five."

"The moose is in outer space!""

What I can't convey here is the look of the above text, rendered (with at least some hand-lettering) in a mix of capital and lower case letters, in various sizes and colors, with underlining and multi-colored exclamation points for emphasis. One would have to be a robot to read this book aloud without using dramatic voices. The director is like a cartoon character having a temper tantrum. 

Lichtenheld perfectly captures the nobility of the moose who wants to be an astronaut. He has an initially proud stance, but when his dream is stepped on by the director, his dejection shows in features and posture. He is unquestionably heroic. The grandmother comes across as sillier, with pink lipstick, a helmet, and pearls, while the other animals are somewhere in between.

Lichtenehld is excellent at capturing action, particularly the "SPROING!!" when the moose (spoiler alert) is launched into outer space. All of this is set against a soothing forest background with pine trees and a lake - anyone would know that the film is being made in Maine. 

This Is a Moose gives young readers a character to root for, while teaching them a little bit about film production. The dramatic, exclamation-mark filled text is fun to read aloud, and has a satisfying ending. The illustrations add to the book's humor. There is a subtle message to be inferred from the book, to the effect that one doesn't have to follow in the footsteps of one's parents. But this message is deeply covered in over-the-top, kid-friendly goofiness. This Is a Moose would make a wonderful title for group storytime in the library or the classroom. Recommended!

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (@LBKids)
Publication Date: May 6, 2014
Source of Book: Bought it

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