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The National Association for Gifted Children’s Annual Conference continues to be a great resource for so many things. This year in Denver, my “new” home state, it was also the source for this review. After finishing my What’s New in Young Adult Literature: 2012 Edition presentation, I had a conversation with Jesse Wilson, a story teller and performer who has just published his first novel. He was wondering if I would be interested in taking a look at it, and I’m glad I said yes!
The book is The Night the Moon Ate My Room! (2012, Tate Publishing & Enterprises). While the folksy narrative and dialogue, very appropriate for performance, may not always translate smoothly to the written page, the content and message are extremely valuable.
While the plot is integral to the story, this little book is more importantly a collection of five great teaching tales or fables – lessons that our gifted and twice-exceptional students especially need to hear and learn. The story is told in first person. An unnamed lad has just failed miserably at his violin recital. The music just wouldn’t come and his classmates laughed at him as he walked embarrassed off the stage. “On my way home, I told myself I would never, ever, play the violin, ever again. It was the worst day of my life,” he says.
That night, so disappointed and angry that he’s unable to sleep, the boy experiences something strange. As he is gazing out his window, the moon seems to be coming closer and closer. It keeps getting bigger and bigger, and then an amazing thing happens. “The moon ate my whole room!” our hero declares. He then finds himself inside the moon, floating way above his home; and here he begins a conversation with the moon. At first reluctant and then finally responding to the friendly, conversational nature of the moon, the boy tells his story. The understanding moon provides the first of many lessons: “I can certainly see why you’re so angry,” the moon said. “But did you know that some of the greatest things in life come from what you call ‘failure?’…” And then the moon shares a series of stories, each with an important and poignant message.
The magic of The Night the Moon Ate My Room! was partially opened to me by a simultaneous reading of William Joyce’s The Man in the Moon: The Guardians of Childhood (2011, Atheneum Books). This picture book introduces his series The Guardians, books which are soon to be made into a movie and which Joyce will co-direct. This series is truly remarkable and a perfect companion piece for The Night the Moon Ate My Room! Both emphasize the importance of following your dreams and discovering your courage. — BS
Wilson, through the moon, shares a number of life lessons with his readers that focus on issues such as the importance of taking risks, of dreaming and turning dreams into reality, of self-discovery, and of not giving up. Laurel Schmidt, author of Severn Times Smarter (2001, Three Rivers Press) comments, “In lyrical prose, Jesse Wilson explores fundamental childhood issues: overcoming adversity, discovering your courage, and the power of dreams.” The stories are tied together by a theme introduced in a quote from an anonymous source found in the first pages of the book: “Dreams are like the paints of a great artist. Your dreams are your paints; the world is your canvas. Believing is the brush that turns your dreams into a masterpiece of reality.”
If our students can begin just to scratch the surface of these lessons, their successes will begin to flow and they will start moving toward a realization of self – a concept educator Annemarie Roeper believed to be so important for gifted and twice-exceptional students.* Roeper understood giftedness as “…a greater awareness, a greater sensitivity, and a greater ability to understand and transform perceptions into intellectual and emotional experiences.” (Roeper, 1982, p.21) Roeper suggests that because the depth of awareness and sensitivity are different in gifted children, the structure of their self – the center of their inner life – is different as well. A child’s understanding of this self can be enhanced with stories such as Wilson has provided in The Night The Moon Ate My Room!
By the way, Jesse Wilson is available for performances of these stories and lessons for children. He can be contacted through www.jessewilsonproductions.com. What a wonderful way to not only introduce this interesting little novel but also to emphasize these life lessons!
*More on Roeper’s thoughts can be found in Educating Children for Life: The Modern Learning Community, which has just been re-released in a new edition by Royal Fireworks Press.
Roeper, A. (1982). How the gifted cope with their emotions. Roeper Review 5(2), 21-24.
Professor Emeritus Bob Seney is retired from teaching in the Masters of Gifted Studies Program at Mississippi University for Women. At conferences, he often presents a session titled “What’s New in Young Adult Literature.” Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.