Touch the moon by Phil Cummings
Illus. by Coral Tulloch. Allen and Unwin, 2019. ISBN 9781760523657.
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. Everyone has a story about where they were the day Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, but the one told by Phil Cummings in his stunning new picture book, published to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of that day, is second to none.
A young lad sitting in front of his television set in Peterborough in South Australia, has to decide between going out into the snow or watching the moon landing.
A remote town in the Mid North of South Australia, Peterborough experiences very cold winter weather, but 1969 was the coldest day for a long time. Sitting by his television, a newspaper left open on the front page broadcasting the event of the century, he watches the garden around his house become quiet and still as flakes of snow drift down. The young boy rushes out, allowing the snow to fall on his eyes, face and tongue. He has never seen snow before.
Mum aware of the momentous event about to unfold in their living room, calls him back, and he watches as Armstrong places one foot on the moon, saying his now iconic words. Friends call from the yard and he joins them placing their own footsteps in the snow, paralleling what is happening on the moon.
A beautifully circular story, Phil Cummings was that eleven year old boy, seeing snow for the first time, drawn between an event in his home town and an awe inspiring happening on the moon. What better way to celebrate fifty years since the moon landing than to recall an incident at home, making the almost impossible walk on the moon comparable with steps taken by a young lad and his friends in their back yard.
Cummings is always able to recreate the small events in people's lives, giving them a universality which is memorable. His work links the everyday to the momentous, connecting small events in a child's life to something much bigger, effortlessly giving a sense of authenticity to his stories.
And Coral Tulloch's illustrations underline the ordinariness of the day; Mum working in the kitchen washing dishes at the sink, apron around her waist, the breakfast things on the table, ironing table ready to the side, calling out to him to make sure he doesn't miss the event. The house and its environs are crammed full of images from the sixties, allowing readers to view a snapshot of the past. This image of a warm, close family, lovingly detailed with Tulloch's soft illustrative technique, explodes when the images of the moon take over the pages, bold and sharp, using few colours to recreate the scene.
Themes: Space. Man on the moon, Snow, Peterborough (SA).