November 21, 2017

When the Moon Comes

Written by Paul Harbridge
Illustrated by Matt James
Tundra Books
40 pp.
Ages 4-8
September 2017
In a land so inescapably and inhospitably cold, hockey is the chance of life, and an affirmation that despite the deathly chill of winter we are alive. – Stephen Leacock
With Stephen Leacock's words prefacing the book, readers can anticipate a book of cold and ice which only hockey can warm to life.  This is our Canada.
Separate illustrations from When the Moon Comes 
by Paul Harbridge
 illus. by Matt James
The children in When the Moon Comes anticipate the coming winter, but it's all about the hockey.  November may still find ducks on the beaver flood in the woods but December finally brings the cold snap that causes it to freeze.  They're already envisioning being on the ice but Arthur suggests they must wait for the moon. When the snow finally comes, dumping it on town and country alike, and the lunar cycle progresses until the full moon, the children make their way after school to the place of dreams and action.
From When the Moon Comes 
by Paul Harbridge
 illus. by Matt James
Their long trek is rewarded with a fire that warms their skates and their anticipation as they take turns clearing the "magic ice."
It is dark, dark now, and the face of the sky is freckled with stars.  But on the far side of the flood, the sky is brighter behind the trees. The moon is rising.
     When the moon comes, we glide out onto the ice we have claimed.  It is marvelous ice, as good as any we have known.
From When the Moon Comes 
by Paul Harbridge
 illus. by Matt James
In several wordless pages of Matt James' extraordinary art, the children skate and play and are stars in their own arena.  It is only when the puck disappears into the snow that Arthur, the voice of reason, suggests it is time to end the game.  The game may be set aside but the magic at the fire, drinking tea and toasty sandwiches, is just a new play before heading home.
Our wet pants freeze solid in the cold, and we walk clanking like knights in armor, lances over our shoulders, hoods like helmets around our faces. 
The story ends with the children warm and slumbering at home while the moon with its promise of more hockey accompanies their sleep.

Paul Harbridge's story of late night hockey on a frozen beaver flood is as magical as the ice.  His words of anticipation and emotion are subtle but reverent, packed with feeling.  Like the world hidden beneath the snow and ice, there is a story of expectation from the past and of the future that underlies what is at its core a tale of shinny.  Artist Matt James, whose work I've admired in Northwest Passage (Groundwood, 2013), The Stone Thrower (Groundwood, 2016) and From There to Here (Groundwood, 2014), enriches Paul Harbridge's text with acrylic and India ink illustrations that convey the awe and appreciation of the children for their landscape and their activity.  There may be darkness and frigid temperatures but there is warmth and camaderie and action.  With many strokes of pen and paint, Paul Harbridge and Matt James take all readers to a place of inhospitable iciness and hospitable hockey that can only be witnessed and fully appreciated When the Moon Comes.

No comments:

Post a Comment