I’ve reviewed a few books set in Africa, including, most recently, Cinderella of the Nile, but none set in Uganda – until today. The cover illustration beckoned. The gently rhyming text paired with detail-filled illustrations kept me reading, and re-reading. I hope you enjoy this Perfect Picture Book as much as I do!
Title: Sing to the Moon
Written By: Nansubuga Nagadya Isdahl
Illustrated By: Sandra van Doorn
Publisher/Date: Lantana Publishing/October 2018
Suitable for Ages: 4-8
Themes/Topics: wishes; rainy day; intergenerational story; #ReadYourWorld; rhyming; family.
If I had one wish, I would reach the stars, then ride a supernova straight to Mars! Jjajja tells me, “Sing to the moon,” and perhaps my wish will be granted soon.
On a rainy day in Uganda, a grandfather shares memories and stories with his grandson.
Links to Resources:
- This story occurs in Uganda, a country in Africa; learn more about Africa and Uganda;
- If you had one wish, what would you wish? Describe or draw a picture of what you wished;
- In a note to readers, Isdahl asks if you’ve “ever been stuck at home on a rainy day.” Discover some rainy day activities;
- The narrator’s grandfather in Sing to the Moon shares stories from his childhood. Ask a grandparent or an elderly relative, neighbor or family friend about her or his childhood.
Why I Like this Book:
Sing to the Moon is a heart-warming, intergenerational picture book that provides a window into life in Uganda, a country I’ve never had the pleasure of visiting. Told in gentle rhyme, Sing to the Moon begins with the young, unnamed narrator wishing for intergalactic adventure only to awaken to another dreary, rainy day. But is it? Not if Jjajja, the narrator’s grandfather, has his way. As the pair undertake mundane, everyday tasks, Jjajja recounts stories from his childhood. And as the day ends, “night adventures” begin. Jjajja reads stories of adventure, treasure, fables, and “African kingdoms.” But Jjajja keeps the best to last: His own storytelling followed by the stories of nature that surround us.
Isdahl fills our journey through this rainy day with details of Ugandan life, and van Doorn’s soft, pastel illustrations contain further glimpses of Uganda, including local produce, vegetation and scenery. With soft blues throughout, sprinkled with flecks of night stars and splashes of bright color, van Doorn transports readers to Uganda and into the narrator’s dreams and his grandfather’s stories. Throughout, a small white dog appears on most every spread, a small detail that younger listeners, in particular, will enjoy spotting.
A Note about Craft:
Isdahl utilizes first-person point-of-view to relate the story, which brings an immediacy to the day’s events. Sharing first his fantastical wishes and then his disappointment at the reality of “the patter of rain”, clouds spreading “like a charcoal stain” and “hours with nothing to do”, the narrator sets the reader up for the “aha” moment, “[b]ut then” he hears Jjajja, his grandfather. The “meat” of the story follows: A shared romp through Jjajja’s memories and stories that transport the narrator far from the rainy day.
As mentioned above, Isdahl uses gentle rhyme to tell her story. Not only does the rhyming text provide momentum to transport the reader through this quiet day, but it’s also lulling, perfect for a bedtime read.
The title of Sing to the Moon appears twice in the text, once in the beginning and once at the end, as bookends to the day. We learn from the context that singing to the moon is a means of ensuring that wishes come true. I love that Isdahl chose this presumably Ugandan practice as her title – similar to the “wishing upon a star” with which I’m familiar, but rooted in the place where this story occurs.
Per the book jacket, Isdahl “was born in the US to Ugandan parents and works in international development in East and Southern Africa.” See interviews with her at the Brown Bookshelf and Mater Mea following the release of her debut picture book, Sleep Well, Siba and Saba (Lantana Publishing, UK/2017, US/2018), also set in Uganda and illustrated by French-native van Doorn, who lives and works in Australia. See more of van Doorn’s illustrations on her website.
UK-based Lantana Publishing “is a young, independent publishing house producing inclusive picture books for children.” Lantana’s books are distributed in the US and Canada by Lerner Publisher Services.
This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there! And I’ll be linking this post to a new, #ReadYourWorld initiative coming soon, Kids Read the World: Africa.
What a beautiful intergenerational story. I love the storytelling aspect between a grandfather and grandson. My niece heads a school for girls K-12 in Tanzania and I send her books to fill their beautiful library. Will add this one to my stack.
Wonderful! Check out a new closed Facebook group I found, Kids Read the World: Africa It’s a group of kidlit bloggers who are reviewing children’s literature from each country. The list includes MG, so you may have read/reviewed some of them, and can link your review. You may also find some new books for your niece.
I LOVE these illustrations… so much emotion. There is so much to love here.. Great choice to use first person POV for this. I have spent time in other eastern African countries but not Uganda.
Thanks, Joanna. I thought you’d like this one!
The illustrations and your review are so enticing. Checking the library for a copy. I really want to read this one. Thank you, Patricia.
I think you’ll enjoy it, Maria. I’m hoping your library has it or will get it soon!
Now that I’m a grandma I appreciate intergenerational stories like these so much more:) This one seems particularly beautiful. Thanks for sharing.
I’m not a grandmother yet, but this is one that I plan to hold on to until that day arrives.
Sadly, my library doesn’t own this book. However, I just put in the request and will wait impatiently for it to arrive. I enjoyed your review of this special book.
Thank you for requesting a copy! There are so few kids’ books set in Uganda (or even Africa) and available here. Thanks to you, families in your town will now be able to experience a bit of Uganda from their own homes.
This sounds beautiful, and I love the illustrations. They glow like moonlight. I’ll be adding this to my TBR pile. Thank you!
So happy you enjoyed this, Jilanne.
I have a book about the moon coming out in February and I’m in a group of 2019 debut picture books and 3 of us have books about the moon. It truly is inspiring to everyone around the world. Interesting illustrations.
Congratulations on your debut! I’ll be on the lookout. I think because of the 50th anniversary of the moon walk, there may be a few moon-related books this spring, including one by Jane Yolen & Heidi Stemple. You are in good company!
Thank you so much! Interesting, forgot about the anniversary of the moon launch. As far as I know, none of the three in my debut group have anything to do with it.
Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple are good company indeed! 😎🌙📚
Shameless plug, my book is ALIANA REACHES FOR THE MOON.
I’ll be on the lookout!
I love the premise of both books and the lovely tone and mood Isdahl creates. I will recommend both to my library and hope to read them soon. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you, Dee! Lantana Publishing is a small press, but they create gorgeous books and are distributed here!
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