STARRED REVIEW
August 2021

Moon Pops

translated by Jieun Kiaer
Review by

The moon is melting, but Granny saves the day in this picture book originally published in South Korea and translated into English by Jieun Kiaer.

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The moon is melting, but Granny saves the day in this picture book originally published in South Korea and translated into English by Jieun Kiaer. Author-illustrator Heena Baek won the 2020 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, and this is the first of her books to be published in English.

Based on the Korean fable of the moon rabbit, the tale takes place in a multistory apartment building at night. It stands tall against a pitch-black sky as we peer into each apartment to gaze at the tenants and their homes. The residents are anthropomorphized animals, and Granny is a bespectacled wolf. The summer heat is oppressive—“too hot to do anything”—and the sense of claustrophobia and sweat is palpable. Descriptive onomatopoeia (“whir-whir” and “hum-hum”) capture the animals’ attempts to cool off by firing up their air conditioners, turning on fans and opening refrigerator doors. 

When Granny discovers that the moon is melting—the dripping luminescent moon makes for a surreal and indelible image—she catches some drops in a bucket and whips up a batch of glowing moon pops, which cool everyone off. Then two hapless bucktoothed rabbits appear at her door. “Our home has melted away,” they explain. Ever resourceful, Granny brainstorms a creative way to send them back to their “home in the sky.” 

Baek illustrates the tale with photographs of intricate 3D dioramas that use light and shadow to beguiling effect. The image of the tenants enjoying their moon pops, which also adorns the book’s cover, shows the creatures gazing incredulously at their gleaming treats in the dark of night, their faces illuminated by their moon pops’ light. Granny’s solution for getting the rabbits back to their home on the moon also involves shimmering lights and wondrous, sparkling orbs that shine against the cloudy, starless night sky.  

Moon Pops is a strange and delightful tale made for lingering over—and perfect for reading with your own moon pop. (You can always grab an ice pop from the freezer and pretend it’s lunar.) Leave room on your summer reading list for this story that is cool in more ways than one. 

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