Reviews /

The Mooncatcher’s Rescue

Authored by Karen Lamb
Illustrated by Lia Visirin
Published by Walker Books Ltd

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The Mooncatcher’s Rescue is a puzzling book. Billed as middle grade fiction, its design, illustrations and lost treasure, pirate and adventure filled story certainly all point to one which readers of Kate Saunders, Sophie Anderson and Lesley Parr might pick up.  Indeed, the similarities between the cover of The Mooncatcher’s Rescue and The Land of Neverendings sent me down a book jacket design rabbit hole and is something which would make for a rich classroom discussion.  However, beneath the seemingly innocuous themes of swashbuckling adventure and slightly surreal fantasy characters there lies a rather more complicated set of themes that make this book one which would warrant being read aloud to children to allow for further interpretation and discussion.

When River goes fishing for the moon in Bigdeepby Pond, he meets a ghost called Mona who drowned many years ago in the pond and whose bones are buried at the bottom. She is unable to move on to join her beloved Raphty who is buried beneath the tree outside their old home and so the rescue of the title begins. With a toy badger called Boot who talks to River but whose voice is not heard by the reader, and his new friend Kaleisha, he sets about trying to rescue Mona’s bones and release her from her life stuck between two worlds. He is hindered in his quest by Dashbuckle Fearless, a pirate awoken from his swampy grave when Mona incants a magic spell, his friend Fergus and the giant Crackenlurk, a huge toad whose reputation as a fearsome and deadly foe lurks through the pages of the book.

The themes of death and ghosts may be rather too deep for what is otherwise a rather joyfully surreal book. However, there are some aspects of the writing which make it a challenging book for young readers. Both Mona and Dashbuckle’s voices are distinct and colloquial – Dashbuckle is clearly a pirate from the West Country – and would work much better being heard aurally rather than being read silently. Mona has a habit of misunderstanding and mixing up her words (“strastranuats” for astronauts, “Roarer Borin’ Alice… a beautiforious name”) and this could be quite difficult for children to negotiate if they were reading alone. Both Mona and Dashbuckle have a habit of adding an ‘s’ to verbs like did, which for the more experienced reader gives them a recognisable accent and voice, but for newer readers could be misleading. More brain teasers come in the form of short riddles and wisdoms at the end of chapters, some of which are profound (Sometimes, all it takes for a big dream to happen is something small), others rather more baffling. (‘Friends are like the sun’, said a wise goose.’When they meet a storm cloud, they make a rainbow’. or A wise woman once said, ‘Plans are maps for wishes’. A wise Boot once said, ‘Nets are curtains for fishes’. A wise fish said nothing.) While they are at time amusing and bring a light-heartedness to the tale, at times they feel superfluous.

There is some powerful imagery used in this book; the idea of mooncatching being an obvious one,

He skimmed the net along the shining surface, gathering the hills of lunar highlands and the valley of Mare Tranquilitatis, all within his small net.  And when he lifted it, a shimmering catch of diamond droplets showered out of it like a starburst across a frozen sea.  Mooncatching… Just when you thought you had it, you lost it.

This is rather how I feel about this book. It should be really straightforward to read and review however on closer inspection it fragments into a lot of much harder to define pieces.  It is definitely one to read aloud with upper KS2 children and as the fantastical plot races along, children will be swept along in its wake.