Needful Things

Three new children's books by local authors

“Mr. Moon”

Michael Paraskevas is a good time. As illustrators go, does anyone have more fun? Every page is a party bursting with weirdness, color, and creatures, and then the occasional beacon of sanity, a recognizably rendered human being dropped into the mix, hero or foil, observer or participant, a stand-in for the reader, maybe even for a young Paraskevas himself. 

In the Southamptoner’s latest picture book, a lush mood piece called “Mr. Moon” (Crown, $17.99), a long-lashed Miss Sun retires over the horizon, leaving the, yes, moon-faced orb as regent for the evening, doffing his nightcap to preside over all that needs to be tended to. The clouds must be fluffed by workers atop tall ladders. The sheep line up for counting; cows take to jumping. Crickets clear their throats for a cacophonous performance, while alley cats mass to rattle trash cans.

And in a crazy-quilt cityscape of red brick and brownstone tilting every which way, one sandy-haired boy peers out a second-story window and asks Mr. Moon to keep him company in his sleeplessness.

Cue the Gilbert and Sullivan: “We are very wide awake, the moon and I.”

 

“My Kicks”

In another, less dreamy city, a mother tells a boy, “Those shoes have seen their day!” They’re tattered, soiled, stinky. “It’s time for a new pair.”

But in “My Kicks” (Abrams, $16.95) by Susan Verde, who lives in East Hampton, the kid’s not too young to be bitten by the nostalgia bug: “They may be worn and torn,” he thinks, “but they’ve got stories to tell.” He learned to tie laces in them, first skateboarded in them (helmeted, of course). Splotches remind him of good times, painting, for instance, or just last summer, curbside, slurping up a Popsicle, all charmingly inked and watercolored by Katie Kath. “These sneakers have soul in their soles.”

Maybe so, but nothing lasts, does it. Certainly not childhood. Savor it, kid. Because when our hero eventually comes around and moves on to a fresh pair of bright kicks, the subtext of other, future goodbyes — to a family pet, a beloved grandparent — is devastating. If you choose to think about it.

 

“Emma and the Whale”

Little Emma lives by the sea in what’s nearly a fishing shack. But she doesn’t care, as long as she can spend her days with her dog, Nemo, on the beach, dreaming up stories and collecting shells and beach glass in the shadow of a striped, gull-bedecked lighthouse. She’s seen loggerhead turtles, dolphins, even whales, but never one close enough to touch, not until a young female whale becomes stranded one day, and she sets about rescuing it.

In “Emma and the Whale” (Schwartz & Wade, $17.99) by Julie Case, who lives in Colorado and spends summers in East Hampton, that touch is of utmost importance, as Emma discovers she can commune with the frightened beast, feel its suffering, read its thoughts, as it were. 

Beyond the fetching details in the illustrations by Lee White (panels of action are bordered by what looks like rope) and in the tale itself (“We’re having minestrone soup and rosemary bread for dinner,” Emma thinks at the outset of what she believes will be quick frolic), here is an empowering tale of one strong-willed girl on a mission of mercy. “I can do this,” she tells herself amid the tumbling waves as she puts her back into budging all that blubber. 

Another goodbye. But at least there’s the reward of home and hearth.