Nigel and the Moon

Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins/. Feb. 2022. 40p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780063056282.
PreS-Gr 3–Nigel shares his dreams with the moon: to be an astronaut, a dancer, and a superhero. In the harsh light of day, Nigel shrinks into himself. During career week, he is too afraid of his classmates’ reactions to share his aspirations or the fact that his parents do not have “fancy jobs.” Nigel’s parents are the true superheroes of this story. They are entirely accepting and supportive of Nigel and his dreams. Speaking to his class, they highlight the value of their jobs, but also proclaim parenting Nigel to be “the best job we’ve ever had.” This unwavering public support finally gives Nigel the courage to share his true self. This story radiates a quiet power. Poetic language paired with bold brushstrokes and saturated colors reveals the magic of the night sky. The juxtaposition of the prosaic daytime scenes, often set against a stark white background, exemplifies the difference between Nigel’s nighttime and daytime selves. Nigel is the only child with dark brown skin in his class. While a connection between his race and his anxious isolation is never made explicit in the text, the illustrations suggest a link. Nigel is frustrated that “a dancer like him cannot be found,” while looking at a library book featuring one of Degas’s dancers, his arm across the page a contrast to the dancer’s pale form. The true beauty of this book is the potential breadth of connection. Nigel’s worried face by day and his freedom by night will allow numerous readers to empathize and connect their own varied experiences of anxiety and ostracization. Caretakers should be inspired by the recognition that nothing is more empowering to children than loving adults telling them to “dream big” and “be proud of who you are.”
VERDICT This stirring tale of self-acceptance and parental support is recommended for first purchase.

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