Lonely Luna written by Majid Damircheli with illustrations by Wendy Siemens is about a little girl who moves from a warm climate to a cold one. It is a story that successfully conveys some of the trials and hardship that may occur within a family, and specifically with children, when making such a grand adjustment in place, weather, language, family relations, and culture shock.
As Luna experiences winter for the first time, Damircheli establishes a nice rhythm of repetition, using epithets to teach about snow being “white like milk” and “cold as ice”. Because of the weather, the neighboring children don’t go out to play, and Luna only gazes out the window at the empty neighborhood, hence the title Lonely Luna.
Luna is seriously out of her element in terms of temperature, but also in terms of language. She seems to be, hmm, eight? She can’t understand at school, and so doesn’t make friends there either. To the moon and the sun, in turn, she wishes for a friend. Siemens includes an illustration that shows three figurines, the sun, moon, and the earth to symbolize this threefold desire for friendship. Indeed, Siemens uses the planets, the sun, and the moon as symbols throughout this book, creating a larger range for this story, emphasizing how small Luna feels as a culture-shocked and friendless girl who can’t even communicate herself, in a place that might as well be another planet.
Surprise! Luna arrives home one day to find that her mother has “gone on a trip and might not be able to come back for a long time”. Luna hadn’t even a chance to say good-bye! And her sadness deepens. To make things worse, her father dives into his work, and she hardly ever gets to see him—her only family, the one person she can communicate comfortably with in this new place. Evidently, this is a story that teaches not only about moving, adjusting to climate, language barrier, and loneliness, but also abandonment and separation.
Ever an optimist, however, Luna is sure that there must be some warmth in the cold. After a little while, there is a new girl at school, who has also moved from another locale, and by this time Luna has learned enough to make herself understood. Together they go on a quest around the schoolyard to find a friend. In the end, Luna has found a circle of friends, and is warm in their company, and in her own laughter, even outside in the cold. The happy ending of finding friendship teaches that focus and determination are rewarded, in the sense that if Luna makes steps toward what she wants, a friend, then she will eventually, with time, be a success. I feel that a sophistication in Damircheli’s ending must be noted: the mother doesn’t return, and her disappearance is not addressed any further, which makes the ending more complex, like in life, not all things are resolved at once in a neat and tidy fashion.
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