When the Moon Comes

illus. by Matt James. 40p. Tundra. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781101917770.
RedReviewStarGr 2–5—As ducks fly south for the winter, kids wait impatiently for the full moon and the promise of ice on the beaver flood. When it finally arrives, they trek through the fresh-fallen snow to play hockey under the moonlight before clambering back to the warmth of their beds. This seemingly straightforward tale about a group of children playing hockey is grander than it first appears. Poignant figurative language makes their walk and first skate in the woods a quest, as they return home "like knights in armor, lances over our shoulders, hoods like helmets around our faces." Nature is alive, personified throughout as cold "biting noses and cheeks," "playful snow" with a watchful moon observing it all. Harbridge uses language to create a space where magic happens, providing an opportunity for extraordinary things to occur in an ordinary world. Acrylic paint and India ink illustrations in rich jewel tones evoke the frosty chill of deep winter nights and James's choices in changing perspective stimulates interest. At times, readers are in the middle of the action, racing across the ice, while in other scenes they are small and gazing up at the omnipresent moon. The moon always takes center stage in this original story about the benefits of waiting and the inherent beauty of simple things: friends, a game of hockey, and a moonlit night.
VERDICT An exquisite selection for older elementary readers, this is a first purchase for school and public libraries.

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