The Lonely Moose
By John Segal
On shelves now
Sometimes I try to begin a review of a children’s book with some kind of quick association or personal recollection. Other times I’m stumped. Today, looking at the copy of "The Lonely Moose" sitting cheerily at my side, I am of the belief that the book puts the "um" in "stumped". Children’s books can be flashy, with bright sparkles, glitter, and glam, or they can fall on the other side of the equation and be simple, achingly beautiful affairs. John Segal’s book falls squarely in the latter category and it’s hard to say any more than that. The idea of writing a children’s book where an animal learns that having friends is fun doesn’t sound particularly original on the outset, but Segal has a way of making everything old new again. For those of you looking for a book that is child friendly with all the gentle leanings of a classic, "The Lonely Moose" could well be the book for you.
Moose was pretty content with his lot at the start. He lived by himself by a lake without friends or family nearby. One day, Moose rescues a bird from the center of his lake and soon finds that the bedraggled creature is incapable of flight. Feeling protective, Moose takes Bird under his charge and the two fall into a kind of friendship. True, Moose doesn’t much care for early singing or worms, but they both like picking berries and views from the mountain tops. One day a forest fire offers Bird just the impetus he needs to fly and Moose is left all alone again. The seasons change, and in the spring Bird is back… with some colorful friends. After all, as Bird says, "Moose, you can never have too many friends!"
Let’s talk colors. More specifically, let’s talk watercolors. Can I say that I used to believe that I wasn’t a watercolor fan? When you’re a kid you associate watercolors with the only art that you’re really allowed to do. When you’re older you still have that perception somewhere in the back of your brain. Watercolors = child’s play. It takes a book like "The Lonely Moose" to remind just how untrue these thoughts can be. Segal separates his colors into three different tones. On the outset you have Moose and his pastoral world of greens, browns, and soft watery blues. Bird, and later his companions, is a bright spot against this mild backdrop. His feathers are a brilliant fiery red with oranges, yellows, and the merest hint of purple on the tip of his tail. Third, there are the threatening grays and blacks that accompany dangerous nighttime scenes or the fire charred landscapes. How these three elements work together in tandem with the storyline is what makes this book both faithful to its own plot and kid-friendly.
You can only get so far on pretty hues and tones, of course. That’s where the characters of Moose and Bird come into play. Moose is probably the more expressive of the two. At the story’s beginning his most significant emotion is that of mild disinterest in the world around him. As the story continues, however, he displays shock, disgust, delight, fear, and (most impressively) a kind of heartfelt yearning and despair. Bird hasn’t as many facial expressions, but then this is not "The Lonely Bird" we’re talking about but "The Lonely Moose". Moose is the real hero here, and Bird the fellow who gives his friend the desire to break out of his shell and make a friend.
Altogether, it’s a soft sweet story with a lovely little message at its core. One of the nicest children’s picture books to come out, and one of the first titles you should think of when someone asks you to recommend a story about friends. A book deserving of love.