Another Beautiful “Once Upon a Time”

Many Moons by James Thurber
Grade: A+

James Thurber wrote The 13 Clocks, one of my favorite books of all time. I haven’t been as impressed with some of his other books, though. Amazon had been trying to sell me Many Moons for many moons, but I didn’t dare read it lest I be disappointed. Then one day, while requesting some other books from the library, I decided to request Many Moons, too. I’m so glad I did.

The book begins, “ONCE UPON A TIME, in a kingdom by the sea, there lived a little Princess named Lenore. She was ten years old, going on eleven. One day Lenore fell ill of a surfeit of raspberry tarts and took to her bed.” The king wanted her to get well and he asked if there was anything she wanted. She replied, “I want the moon. If I can have the moon, I will be well again.” That’s not asking for much! But he was the king, and kings can accomplish a lot, so he called upon his wisest counselors to help him acquire the moon for the Princess.

The story of Many Moons is beautiful, but what about the illustrations? Be warned that there are two editions: one with the original illustrations by Louis Slobodkin and one with new illustrations by Marc Simont. Which one you should choose depends on a few things. First, if you’ve read the book before, then you’ll probably prefer the illustrations you remember. To prefer that which we have liked before is human nature. If you’re a purist and would like to see the book as Thurber intended, then choose the original illustrations. However, if you haven’t read it before and you’re not necessarily a purist, then it comes down to which type of art you prefer. Do you like squiggly, modern art with pictures that suggest without completely filling out the image? If so, go for Slobodkin. But if you like traditional images that are easy on the eye, go for Simont. Personally, I like the Simont illustrations better, but of course, that was the edition I read first.

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