December 15, 2022

Luna's Green Pet

Written by Kirsten Pendreigh
Illustrated by Carmen Mok
Sleeping Bear Press
40 pp.
Ages 5-8
August 2022
What is Luna's green pet? Is it a turtle? A parrot? A fish? A frog? It's none of those because Luna's apartment does not allow pets.  Though her friends suggest a rock or a pet-a-guchi, Luna can't seem to connect with them. But, one day, she rescues the perfect pet for her.
From Luna's Green Pet by Kirsten Pendreigh, illus. by Carmen Mok
In a trash bin outside her apartment, she discovers a small plant. It even had its name on a marker: Stephanotis floribunda. Because it's quite a mouthful, Luna calls her Stephanie. And Luna is the best pet caregiver. She transfers Stephanie to a new and bigger pot, gives her new soil, and waters her. She reads stories to Stephanie and even takes her for walks in the park.
From Luna's Green Pet by Kirsten Pendreigh, illus. by Carmen Mok
Luna's friends may not be impressed with Stephanie's personality, but Luna loves her new pet and Stephanie is thriving. In fact, Stephanie grows so much that Luna must shape her long stems into an animal form. But then one day, Stephanie exhibits strange growths and Luna is concerned, ready to take her pet to a botanist for examination, until she learns it's just the natural cycle of life blossoming in Stephanie.

Not every child is fortunate to live in a household where they can have a pet, whether because of building restrictions or familiar limitations with respect to health or finances. But having a pet is a
privilege and one that Luna takes seriously. Her pet may be a plant, but Stephanie gives Luna companionship, offers the child opportunities for responsibility and learning, and nurtures Luna's empathy and self-confidence. By having Luna think outside the box about what a pet can be, BC's Kirsten Pendreigh offers kids an exemplar in problem solving. Luna has a problem i.e., no pets in her building and needs to find a solution i.e., a pet that will be allowed. She finds both a solution and a pet in Stephanie. Even better, hers is a rescue that needed a home and some loving care to become the star Stephanie would become. (I suspect that Stephanie would've been much loved regardless of becoming a winner at the pet parade.) And, if all that goodness wasn't enough, through the miracle of a life cycle, Stephanie's seeds are to be spread further afield to bring joy to others.
From Luna's Green Pet by Kirsten Pendreigh, illus. by Carmen Mok
As a picture book, Luna's Green Pet uses illustrations to help convey the story and bring it to life. Carmen Mok, who has illustrated a number of fabulous books including When I Listen to Silence, Viola Shrink and Tough Like Mum uses a variety of media including gouache, India ink, dry pastel and colour pencil to create her refreshing artwork. Green is a star in Luna's Green Pet, highlighting the importance of flora in the natural world, but Carmen Mok makes sure to use a full palette and soft lines and shapes to draw young readers into Luna's world. Kids may identify themselves in Kirsten Pendreigh's story, but they'll see their lives in the artwork Carmen Mok has created for Luna's world of home, school, and outdoors.

It may be raining or snowing outside right now here in Canada–in fact, where I live it's doing both!–but what better a time to talk to children about growing plants, whether it be as a school project to learn about a plant's life cycle, or in preparation for a spring planting, or as a pet to be loved. With a story to bolster any of that learning and some guidance from Kirsten Pendreigh–she appends her story with some background into Stephanie and growing plants–as well as the brightness of Carmen Mok's illustrations, Luna's Green Pet will get kids clamouring to develop their green thumbs and perhaps look at plants as the engaging living things they are.
From Luna's Green Pet by Kirsten Pendreigh, illus. by Carmen Mok

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