Friday, 26 June 2015

The Moon and Farmer McPhee

The Moon and Farmer McPhee
Margaret Mahy, ill. David Elliot (reissue)
Random House, 32 pages, paperback, NZ$20

The combination of Margaret Mahy’s words and David Elliot’s pictures was always a dream-team event. The Moon and Farmer McPhee (2010) was the last book the talented duo created and it is splendid to see the award-winning picture book has been re-issued as a (really sturdy) paperback, ready to introduce a new generation of readers to its die-cut surprises. .

Poor Farmer McPhee, tired and irritable after a hard day’s work can’t enjoy the beauty of the moon “curved like a peeling from a silver apple.” His farm animals do appreciate it; they sing and dance in the moonlight. (Only David Elliot could draw a sheep doing handstands.)
Unimpressed and desperately sleepy McPhee tries to lock the animals in the barn but then something quite magical happens. Fold-out pages show him being captured by the silver light of the moon, drawn out to dance and frisk with his animals. (Only David Elliot could show a farmer in nightshirt and gumboots playing leapfrog with sheep.) Clever arrangements of folds and windows conceal secrets and add to the fun.
The last page, with its closing doors concealing sleeping dancers, carries a message for all bedtime readers.

Trevor Agnew

This review first appeared in Your Weekend magazine on 6th June 2015.

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