Book Review: Meet Me at the Moon by Gianna Marino
Local author Gianna Marino’s new children’s book Meet Me at the Moon honors the quintessential dance between a mother’s love and a child’s need for reassurance. Vibrant textured hues of reds, greys, oranges and greens set the tone while exquisite elephants, zebras and giraffes move along sun drenched landscapes, under starry skies, in rainstorms and more upon the African plain.
Mama Elephant tells Little One she must go away for a while. The land is dry and she will climb the highest mountain to ask the skies for rain. Little One is worried and grips Mama’s trunk “I don’t want you to go.” Will Mama return?
Gianna’s beautiful illustrations pull our heartstrings as Mama reassuringly nuzzles Little One and points to nature’s elements to unite them while she is away. Mama says “Listen for my sound on the wind, Little One. I will sing to you.” and “When you feel the warmth of the sun, I will be loving you from where I am.”
Yet, the reassurances are still not enough, and Little One asks “How will you find me again?” Mama, still gentle and patient, says “When the night sky is bright, Little One, meet me at the moon, where the sky touches the earth.”
After Mama’s departure there are moments Little One feels lonely. The tall giraffes gather to offer friendship and solace. There’s an uplifting scene when amongst the cluster of zebra and giraffe friends, Little One sees a shining star and thinks of Mama, as well as times of sunny delight, when Little One feels the warm love from afar. Many days begin to pass, and Little One grows sad and worried. Rain begins to pour, and no longer is there a warm sun or shining stars for comfort. But, then Little One remembers the calling song and begins to sing.
I don’t want to give away the whole story except to say the ending is poetic and uplifting—one that can be cherished by children and parents alike.
Meet Me at the Moon is Gianna’s third children’s book after Zoopa: An Animal Alphabet and One Too Many: A Seek & Find Counting Book, both of which received great reviews. But, what makes her new book unequivocally poignant is the back story—Gianna began writing about Mama and Little One during her own mother’s last days battling cancer. Her father had died just seven years earlier from the same fate, and Gianna realized she would be orphaned and alone. She wrote this story for comfort and then realized she was capturing the eternal connection between a mother and a child.
I look to the relationship she is honoring; the book is dedicated to her mother, Anne. I asked Gianna a few questions about their relationship:
Q: What were the qualities about your mother that you most cherish?
A: I cherish how much love my mother had for others. She had this way of embracing everyone - people she was close to and people she just met. She had an eclectic group of friends and was willing to sit with all types and hear their side. It used to drive me crazy that she would talk to everyone on the street, or on the bus, or in the grocery store - just starting up a conversation like she actually knew them! But now I see myself doing the same thing and I get it. I see how connecting with strangers leads to interesting adventures! You never know how someone might inspire you in the course of a day, or with one little word or thought.
Q: You mentioned once in an interview that your mother supported the things that you do - can you elaborate? What kind of support or inspiration was she?
A: My mother told me day after day, from my early childhood to my adulthood, "You can be an artist!" She signed me up for every class imaginable as a child and by the age of 10 I had already taken ballet, painting, ceramics, filmmaking, photography, piano, violin, cello, flute, horseback riding and tap dancing! She was always encouraging me to try new things and to this day, I look over class lists as if my mother were sitting by my side, deciding which she would most like to take with me. She was also, of course, the inspiration to Meet Me at the Moon—showing me the importance of connection with others.
Q: You did a lot of traveling, including to Africa, where this story takes place. How did your mother help shape or encourage your adventures?
A: We traveled quite a bit when I was a child. Mostly more "tame" adventures to Hawaii, Alaska or Mexico. But my mother, who loved travel, took long trips on her own when I was in my early teens. I remember her sending photos and letters from her solo trips all over Europe. She was always encouraging me to live a different life—to explore and try new things. I think she was a little intimidated by the places I chose to travel (India, Ethiopia etc) but she saved every letter I ever sent to her and always encouraged me to write every detail!
As a mother myself I look to these reflections as lessons on how I can offer the proper reassurances to help keep my children strong, imaginative and full of passion. Gianna’s book will be a visual reminder of the gentle power of motherhood, as well as a reminder of the reassurances we all need from time to time - that our loved ones are never far from us.
September 12, 2019
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