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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

HOT TO BICYCLE TO THE MOON to plant sunflowers, written and illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein. Roaring Brook Press, Macmillan. Raincoast Books, 2013. $18.99 ages 7 and up

"Why NOT on my bicycle? With a lot of serious thought, I secretly worked out a plan: I WOULD BE THE FIRST HUMAN TO BICYCLE TO THE MOON TO PLANT SUNFLOWERS.  The plan was simple but BRILLIANT. But with homework, soccer, violin, and all the other stuff I had to do, I never had the time to carry it out. That's why I decided to write my plan down so someone else could try it."

Ah, the imagination of children...what won't they think of? In this new fantasy by the beloved and prolific Mordicai Gerstein, we see just what a young boy can fantasize about when it comes to the moon and his bicycle.

In a mentor text that shows readers (and writers)  'how-to' do something special, a young boy voices his plan for planting sunflowers on the moon. Just in case you don't know, that moon always seems in need of cheering up:

"THE FULL MOON always looked to me like a big, sad clown face.
I asked my parents why it was so sad.
"It's probably lonely," they said. "Nothing lives there."
That's when the idea came to me."

With a simple but brilliant plan to make the moon smile, he sets out to create a step by step manual that will help anyone make the trip to the moon and put it out of its misery. Just in case he can't do it himself, there will always be a fail-safe plan to follow.

In a series of numbered panels, he takes the reader from bike to birch-topped trees and 'two thousand used truck inner tubes'; from a giant slingshot and a huge oak tree to a flagpole and a ship's anchor; and to a letter to NASA explaining his stupendous idea. There are twenty-four described steps, each one adding fascination to the fantastic fun-filled romp.

He is blown away by the beauty of the world and his emotions are worn on his sleeve:

"The earth will be the most BEAUTIFUL THING you've ever seen. It will keep getting smaller, while the moon grows bigger. When the moon looks bigger than the earth, you'll know you're ALMOST THERE."

So much fun this book is to share, and then to hand off to children who will want to read it again, and take the time to really digest all of the instructions given. The illustrations add great delight, offering captions and speech bubbles that give readers pause to stop and look carefully at each panel. Be sure to keep your eye on the moon and its changing image.

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