Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Thank You, Moon - a review - 10.25.23

I think I'm most conscious of the moon on my early morning jogs.  It's interesting to see how it lights up the dark sky and world around me.  It seems like sometimes the animals are more active in those dark, early morning hours.  And while I may see more or less depending upon the cycle of the moon, it's affecting so much more than my light.

Thank You, Moon
written by Melissa Stewart
illustrated by Jessica Lanan
published by Alfred A. Knopf

In Melissa Stewart's newest book, Thank You, Moon, we get to see the impact of "Nature's Nightlight" (the books' tagline!) on the earth and its many living creatures.  In both lyrical and expository text, readers learn more about the phases of the moon and the effects they have.  Jessica Lanan's watercolored illustrations capture the essence of the moon and bring the creatures to life.

I have a special treat for my blog readers, as author Melissa Stewart agreed to stop by and answer some questions about the book!  Enjoy!

 1.  You always have great stories about the origin of each of your books.  I feel like this one was born from nuggets learned in some of your other books that came together with the moon being the common factor.  If not, what is the back story?

In this case, my editor, Katherine Harrison, gets all the credit. In February 2020, she tagged me on Twitter, alerting me to a conversation about how animals respond to the Moon’s cycle, and asked “Is this something you’d potentially be interested in writing? I just can’t get enough of the moon these days, and I feel like you could bring something special to it.” She also included a beautiful, eerie, mysterious image of the Moon partially obscured by clouds. It was an irresistible invitation. 

Not only was it a fascinating topic that had never been written about in a children’s book before, I immediately knew how I’d end the book. I could draw inspiration from a special moment I’d shared with my nieces, Caroline and Claire, about 15 years ago.

As I discuss in this video, when Caroline was in kindergarten and Claire was in second grade, I did an author visit at their school in Maine. They wanted to ride to school with me rather than take the bus, and on the way, I spotted the Moon.

 “Oh, look, there’s the Moon,” I said, pointing out the passenger-side window.

Claire, who was on that side of the car, could easily see it. “Oh yeah. Cool,” she replied.

But Caroline couldn’t see it. She squirmed wildly in her car seat. “Where? Where?” she yelled. As her frustration grew, she exclaimed, “I’ve never seen the Moon in the day in my whole long life!” 

So I pulled the car over, and we all got out to admire that lovely, surprising daytime Moon. I’ll never forget Caroline’s joy and astonishment in that moment. She was discovering something new and exciting about how nature works. 

Even as an adult, spotting the Moon in the day is still a special treat. It feels a tiny bit magical because you aren’t expecting it. I wanted to capture that emotion at the end of the book, and it felt simpatico with the image Katherine had sent me. 

2.  This book reminds me of your series "A Place for..." with the poetic lines and then additional facts.  I typically use those as examples of a cause-and-effect text structure. Is that what you had in mind here—because of the moon, this happens?  

You’re right. A Place for Butterflies and all its companion books have a strong cause-and-effect structure in the main text. When people do XXXX, butterflies can live and grow. The secondary text in those books has a problem-solution structure. First it describes how human actions are harming butterfly populations. And then what scientists and community members are doing to address the problem.

While it is true that, in this book, light from the moon (or lack of it) allows the featured animals to find food, escape from enemies, raise a family, etc., I didn’t consciously structure the text with cause/effect in mind. I was thinking of it as a compare-and-contrast text structure because there are two comparative examples linked to each verb. For instance, the moon guides tiny sea turtles and dung beetles on their migrations. However, I think a reader could make an argument for cause-and-effect. And it would be a great activity for students to re-write my text to make a strong cause-and-effect structure. It’s always interesting to see what other people take away from my books!

3.  How do you start writing a book like this?  And how do you decide to have the two different layers of text?

When I write expository literature, I begin by looking for a hook--a unique lens that will spark the reader’s curiosity and encourage them to think about the topic in a new way. 

When a book has a strong hook, it’s often built right into the title, so brainstorming titles is one way to discover the great hook. It can really help to toss around ideas with a friend, so one Saturday, I asked my husband to help me think of possible titles while we cleaned the house. The ideas could be good or bad, silly or serious, anything at all. Any unique way of thinking about “our closest companion in space.” I liked the sound of that phrase, so I wrote it down to get us started.

A few hours later, the dust bunnies were gone, the bathroom sparkled, and we’d filled a notebook page with ideas. The next day, I typed them into a computer file along with all the adjectives I could think of to describe the Moon photo Katherine had sent me. My goal was to create a manuscript that evoked that image.

It didn’t take long for the title Thank You, Moon and the lens of gratitude to rise to the top. After all, life on Earth—including us—couldn’t exist without the Moon to regulate Earth’s seasons. 

I also thought it would be possible to use the phrase repetitively to craft the kind of lyrical voice I wanted for the book. 

Once I had a hook and I knew the text structure, I could start to write. Expository literature often has two layers of text. It helps the book appeal to a broader range of readers. Younger readers can focus on just the main text and the art and get the gist of it. Older readers can take a deeper dive by exploring the secondary text. The additional details will enrich their understanding of the topic. 

I wrote the lyrical main text and more detailed secondary text in tandem, moving those large chunks around until I had an order that flowed well and represented the diversity of creatures, habitats, and geographical regions that would appeal to a broad, global audience.

4.  Writing picture books seem like such a daunting task because you have minimal pages which usually means some information gets left out.  What was something that you were thinking of adding but didn't make the finished story?

Yes, during the research process, I gathered information about 20 or so different animals. In the published book, there are ten animals and one plant. Whenever I write a list book about an animal behavior, I keep diversity in mind. As I mentioned above, I’ve included creatures from many different animal groups (reptiles, insects, birds, mammals, zooplankton, corals) and many different habitats and geographical regions. I also looked for ways to pair the animals by survival strategies to the compare-and- contrast text structure I mentioned above. 

One example that made it almost up until the end is this:

“Thank you, Moon, for guiding chum salmon to their breeding grounds. 

Each summer, chum salmon travel hundreds of miles up raging rivers and swirling streams to lay their eggs. Under the Full Moon’s bright glow, they can swim faster and farther.” 

But when I decided to feature just two examples per verb (guiding), I decided to keep the reptile and insect and let the fish go.

Thanks so much for inviting me to answer these questions, Michele. Your blog is a tremendous resource for teachers and librarians. Thank you for all you do to help educators nurture and nourish young readers.

You're welcome, and thank you, Melissa, for stopping by!

I know this is a book you'll want on your shelves and Random House Publishing has donated a copy to giveaway!  Enter the giveaway below by Wednesday, November 1st for your chance to win (US addresses only).

Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for the review copy!

MELISSA STEWART has written more than 200 science books for children, including Whale Fall: Exploring an Ocean-Floor Ecosystem, Tree Hole Homes: Daytime Dens and Nighttime Nooks; the ALA Notable Book Feathers: Not Just for Flying; and the SCBWI Golden Kite Honor title Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers: Celebrating Animal Underdogs. She maintains the award-winning blog Celebrate Science and lives in Massachusetts. Learn more at 

JESSICA LANAN is the author and illustrator of Jumper: A Day in the Life of a Backyard Jumping Spider and The Fisherman & the Whale, which was awarded the Bull-Bransom Award for wildlife art. She has illustrated many other books, including The Lost Package and Just Right: Searching for the Goldilocks Planet. Jessica lives in Boulder, Colorado. Learn more at 

Let's be social!  Find us here:


Blue Slip Media: @blue_slip_media 

Random House Children’s Books: @randomhousekids

Melissa Stewart: melissastewartscience
Jessica Lanan: jessicalanan
Me: @readingthroughtheages_


Blue Slip Media: @blue-slip-media 

Random House Children’s Books: Random House Children’s Books

Melissa Stewart:  Melissa Stewart


Blue Slip Media: @blueslipper & @barbfisch

Random House Children’s Books: @randomhousekids

Melissa Stewart: @mstewartscience
Jessica Lanan: @jalanan
Me: @knott_michele

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